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Exhibition of photographs by Vik Muniz opens at Galerie Edwynn Houk in Zurich
Milk Drop, 1997. Chromogenic print, 81.3 x 101.6 cm. Photo: Courtesy of Vik Muniz and Edwynn Houk Gallery.

ZURICH.- Galerie Edwynn Houk is presenting an exhibition of photographs by Vik Muniz, from two of his most iconic series, Pictures of Chocolate and Pictures of Diamonds.

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961) is best known for his reimagined imagery and the inventiveness of his technique. He uses an extensive variety of materials including sugar, dirt, string, chocolate, wire, garbage and diamonds, to recreate and interpret famous images, such as the Mona Lisa executed in peanut butter and jelly, or a Picasso created entirely with raw paint pigment. He then photographs his rendering before destroying it, leaving only the photograph as the final artwork. Muniz taps into our collective memory of known and recognizable images and artworks. With a wry and canny combination of high and low, Muniz uses the photograph not in the traditional sense, as a recording of reality, but instead as a document of his illusion.

It is Muniz’s works in chocolate (specifically the brand Bosco) that are the most famous and recognizable from his entire oeuvre. An adroit draftsman, his technical virtuosity enables him to execute drawings incredibly quickly, retaining the liquid chocolate’s viscosity in his photographs. His Pictures of Chocolate series, which he began in 1997, includes an extensive group of subjects: the milk drop of Harold Edgerton’s 1957 stop-motion photograph, portraits of football players, stills from movies, and well known artworks from Warhol to Old Masters. His “Action Painters” and “Action Photos” recreate the iconic photographs by Hans Namuth of Jackson Pollock creating one of his drip paintings. The gestural pooling of Muniz’s chocolate echoes Pollock’s expressionist paint drips, showcasing a “perfect marriage of subject and material.”

In a similar vein, Muniz’s series Pictures of Diamonds consists of portraits of iconic Hollywood stars, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, created entirely of diamonds - a material that is perfectly suited for the subject matter. Muniz plays upon close associations that viewers readily make between these glamorous divas and the opulent diamonds. Muniz has commented upon his own fascination with the stones and how light plays off of them, an effect heightened in the finished photograph. Muniz plays with scale, enlarging the diamonds to a dazzling size. Yet the portrait is ephemeral; once captured by the camera, the composition is quickly overturned to make the next arrangement. The fleeting beauty of the “diamond diva” is immortalized by the permanence of the photograph, and in the same spirit as Andy Warhol, it’s the portrait that perhaps serves as a true testament to their legend.

Vik Muniz is represented in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Gallery, London and the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris. He was the subject of the Academy Award nominated film, “Waste Land,” in 2010. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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