Yesterday, I forcibly dragged Eli Eli and I headed over to the Museum of Modern Art to check out the new exhibit, a huge exposition by Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist who lives in New York. Though the other current exhibit, a celebration of the sixtieth birthday of the museum, is OK, this exhibit blows out it of the water. The museum was filled to the brim with well-heeled Cariocas, preppy gay men, and artist types, which I imagine it will be for the next week or so.
Vik Muniz was born in 1961 and grew up in a working class family in Sao Paulo. He moved to New York in the 1980s, when he began his career. He is best known for creating works of art out of unusual materials, and then photographing them. This exhibit features photographs of many of his most popular series, which use sugar, pasta, peanut butter and jelly, ketchup, chocolate syrup, trash, diamonds, caviar, junk, magazine scraps, pigment, old computers, flowers, toy soldiers, plastic bugs, puzzle pieces, and cotton to create amazing original portraits, as well as replicas of famous paintings and photographs.
What I love about Vik, besides his evident social conscience, is his unbelievable creative genius, the ability to take something totally inane, like ketchup, and turn it into a work of art. He also takes things that are ugly and undesirable and makes them beautiful. I also loved to see his vision, a combination of Brazilian ingenuity and American pragmatism and perfectionism. Though many of his works feature American or European themes or images, his style is undeniably Brazilian, one of unique fusion. My favorite pieces, which absolutely bowled me over, were Medusa Marinara, Mona Lisa in PB & J, Elizabeth Taylor in Diamonds, and Monet's La Japonaise in pigment. Oddly, though, the piece that most affected me was two American flags made from flowers and plants: one, green and in full bloom, the other brown and decaying. Though I'm pretty sure this wasn't his intention, it reminded me of the transition the US is undergoing, moving from despair to hope, from decadence to prosperity.
My only complaint about the exhibit was the organization, which didn't allow for a smooth or clear viewing order. Eli's complaint was that one of the chocolate syrup pieces, a two-set replica of The Raft of the Medusa, was ordered incorrectly. The museum employees on hand insisted the photos were in the correct order, but he's determined they're backwards. It was one of the least clearly drawn pieces in the exhibit, so I couldn't really tell.
The exhibit runs through March 8th at MAM Rio, but you can still enjoy Vik's work even if you're not in Rio. He has exhibits currently running in New York and Japan, and the Rio exhibit is moving to Sao Paulo in March. You can check out tons of Vik's works on his website and read about his career. For more information on the exhibit, see the MAM site.