Born São Paulo, Brazil, 1961. Lives New York City
Rouen Cathedral Façade (Gray Effect), after Claude Monet (Pictures of Pigment), 2005
101 x 70 inches
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Vik Muniz
Vik Muniz has made a career out of reproducing well-known images in other media and then photographing them, raising a host of issues about perception, meaning, reproduction, and originality.
Pictures of Pigment harks back to some of Muniz' earlier series, such as Sugar Children and Pictures of Soil, where he used a granular material as his medium. Originally the use of crystal sugar and earth alluded to the grains of silver nitrate on photographic film that darken when exposed to light. In Pictures of Pigment, the medium, powdered pigment, when mixed with a binder such as linseed oil, becomes oil paint. Muniz' Pictures of Pigment are thus, in a sense, oil paintings without the oil.
Appropriately, the images in the Pictures of Pigment are all early modern oil paintings by artists such as Matisse, Gauguin, and Monet. Muniz creates his images by sprinkling differently colored powdered pigments over reproductions of the paintings, photographing the results, and blowing the photographs up to large scale.
The enormous size of these photographs reminds us that while the works of Monet and others loom large in our imaginations, few of us know the true scale of the originals. We are used to seeing them in photographic reproduction, either reduced, as in books or magazines, or vastly enlarged, as in slides.