Vik Muniz

Achrome, after Piero Manzoni


Not on display

Vik Muniz born 1961
Photograph, C-print on paper, mounted on aluminium
Image: 2627 × 1788 mm
Purchased with funds provided by Oliver Bolitho (Tate Americas Foundation) 2016


Achrome, after Piero Manzoni 2007 is a large scale colour photographic print of an image of what appears to be a work by another artist – an Achrome by Italian artist Piero Manzoni (1933–1963), who began giving his monochromatic white paintings this title in 1957. On closer inspection it becomes clear that the image of the Achrome in Muniz’s photograph has in fact been created using a kind of loose powder, in this case white pigment, carefully distributed to mimic the folds of fabric in Manzoni’s original work. Achrome, after Piero Manzoni is part of a series of images of key artworks from the history of twentieth-century modernism and contemporary art that Muniz created from pigment and photographed, and which are thus collectively titled Pictures of Pigment. It is this collective title that gives away the method of trompe-l’oeil imitation Muniz has employed. Like many of his series, which all use equivalent forms of appropriation and image layering, this one incorporates an element of reflexivity in the material used to recreate the appropriated subject matter. A similar strategy is at play in his series Pictures of Dust in which he recreated iconic examples of minimalist sculpture using dust collected from the floors of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (see After Richard Serra, Prop, 1969 2000 [Tate T12917]).

In selecting one of Manzoni’s signature Achromes for recreation in pigment, Muniz reveals his gently humorous approach to his subjects. Manzoni’s works are iconic examples of the white monochrome, an investigation of painting in which colour – traditionally associated with pigment – is eliminated resulting in nothingness. Manzoni stated that what interested him was:

rendering a surface completely white (integrally colourless and neutral) far beyond any pictorial phenomenon or any intervention extraneous to the value of the surface. A white that is not a polar landscape, not a material in evolution or a beautiful material, not a sensation or a symbol or anything else: just a white surface that is simply a white surface and nothing else (a colourless surface that is just a colourless surface). Better than that: a surface that simply is: to be (to be complete and become pure).
(Piero Manzoni, ‘Libera Dimensione’, in Azimuth, no.2, 1960.)

Muniz therefore reinstates pigment and emphasises it as emphatically material, before then paradoxically re-appropriating it and rendering it immaterial through photography. His photograph exists in an edition of six plus four artist’s proofs. This copy is from the main edition.

Further reading
Vik Muniz, Natura Pictrix: Interviews and Essays on Photography, New York 2003.
Lesley Martin and Vik Muniz, Vik Muniz: Reflex, A Vik Muniz Primer, New York 2005.
Vik Muniz, Vik Muniz: Obras Completas 1987–2009, Rio de Janeiro 2009.

Tanya Barson
January 2016

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