Summary

This work is from a series of pictures in which Muniz depicted iconic works of Minimalist sculpture. Muniz fashioned the image from dust he collected off floors in the Whitney Museum, before presenting it as a large-scale photographic print. While the work has a convincing trompe l’oeil effect, appearing as a grainy black and white photographic documentation of a three-dimensional artwork, Muniz is not interested in simply trying to trick the viewer – indeed, closer inspection reveals the image’s component pieces of lint, cobweb, hair and the like. Rather, as in all his work, Muniz attempts to explore the nature of representation itself. As he says, “I don’t want the viewer to believe in my images. I want him or her to experience the extent of his or her own belief in images – period.” (Vik Muniz, 1999, p.107).

The work depicted in this image is Richard Serra’s Prop 1968. Physical presence and materiality are central to Serra’s work, and in constructing Prop from heavy lead components, Serra created tension by the implied instability of weighty objects precariously arranged. A later work by Serra from this series, Shovel, Plate, Prop 1969 (Tate T01728) appears in Tate’s collection. The ephemeral nature of Muniz’s dust picture of Prop wilfully subverts Serra’s intentions, while the metaphoric implications of the museum dust and detritus that make up Muniz’s image further undermine the gravitas of the sculpture as a relic of high Modernism.

The deceptive nature of Muniz’s image also flouts Minimalism’s mantra of ‘truth to materials’. As in many of his works, Muniz has drawn his image from a photographic source, in this case an installation image of Serra’s work in the museum environment. With this further remove from the original, Muniz reflects not only on the unreliability of photography as visual truth, but also on our expectations of images in general.

This work is produced in an edition of ten with five artist’s proofs. The work in Tate’s collection is AP 5/5.

Further reading:
Vik Muniz, exhibition catalogue, Centre National de la Photographie, Paris 1999.
Vik Muniz, exhibition catalogue, Centro Gelego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela 2003, reproduced p.83.
Vik Muniz: Obra incompleta / Incomplete works, Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Rio de Janeiro 2004.

Maria Bilske
October 2004