Light, water, fire, dust.

Step into the cosmic elements through images captured with excess photographer’s flash.

Look through concave mirrors, placed at eye level, past dark windows with holes cut into the wall in front of them, and watch the art museum transform into a camera.

At a new exhibit in Phoenix, visitors can now see the present through the lens of the past.

The Phoenix Art Museum has partnered with the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, to present the first retrospective of contemporary Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz in the United States, curators said. The exhibition “Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia” presents 50 works from different collections that explore the themes of time, memory, history and knowledge. Muñoz also presents new works that debut in Phoenix.

“Muñoz is one of the most important contemporary artists working not only in Latin America but in the world,” said Mark Koenig, Acting Director of Sybil Harrington and CEO of the Phoenix Art Museum. “We hope that audiences in the Southwest and across the country will take advantage of this rare opportunity to find out how they have redefined the medium of photography.”

Muñoz is a critically acclaimed visual artist whose work fuses photographic processes with drawing, painting, printmaking, installation, video and sculpture, said Vanessa Davidson, curator of Latin American art at the Blanton.

He grew up in the throes of a 50-year conflict between the Colombian government and guerrilla groups, which ended in a peace accord in 2016. So, Muñoz said, his art explores the development of violence. as reality.

The exhibition begins with Muñoz’s charcoal drawings from the late 1970s before focusing on a series of interactive photographic and video works.

For example, “Biografias” is a video installation that captures five portraits, made with charcoal dust, on the surface of stagnant water in a white sink. The liquid flows over time, first distorting and then destroying the physical representation of each individual created by Muñoz.

“I can’t escape the artist’s utter fascination with creation, life and death,” said Sharon Dane, of Cleveland, Ohio, who was unfamiliar with Muñoz before visiting the museum.

The exhibition bears witness to the artist’s first experiments with new forms of media.

“Cortinas de baño,” which means shower curtains in Spanish, contains seven full-length plastic sheets on which Muñoz used water and airbrush ink to cast shadows of people in the shower.

While each work conveys a different meaning, many work to reflect the nature of amnesia as images appear and disappear after visitors engage, Davidson said. They offer a rare glimpse into the “invisibility” behind Muñoz’s practice, as well as its evocative imagery that endures in the viewer’s imagination.

Another visitor, Michael Henry, said the exhibit gives a perspective to a current societal norm: how people represent themselves and view photos on social media.

In the work “Aliento”, or Breath, the visitor must inhale and exhale on each of the six reflective discs to see a silkscreened image materialize. Muñoz invites viewers to build a relationship with his art, crossing the bridge between museum observation and participation.

Allusions to great writers such as George Orwell and Ray Bradbury, scholars such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Sisyphus of Greek mythology are scattered throughout his work.

Muñoz pursues art from a philosophical rather than a political perspective.

In 2006, he founded “lugar a dudas”, a non-profit cultural center and residency program for young artists in Cali, Colombia, where he lives and works.

In 2018, he won the Hasselblad Foundation International Prize in Photography. Muñoz does not see himself as a photographer.

Over the past four years, Muñoz has worked closely with Davidson, former curator Shawn and Joe Lampe of Latin American art at the Phoenix Art Museum, to organize a collections checklist, design and install the exhibition, Davidson said.

The two met on several occasions in Cali, Colombia, held meetings via Skype and Zoom, and, when it was time to set up the exhibit, Muñoz traveled to Phoenix.

“Long-awaited, this exhibition seeks to uncover the philosophies and poetics underlying the work of this revolutionary artist,” said Davidson.

Museum staff have collaborated on a bilingual English and Spanish catalog, which accompanies the exhibit as the first commentary on Muñoz’s work in English, Davidson said. It includes two interviews with the artist and a text of his own.

“Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia” will be on view until January 16, 2022 in the Ellen and Howard C. Katz Modern Art Wing of the Phoenix Art Museum before moving to the Blanton.

For more information on museum prices and hours, see phxart.org/visit/.

Contact the reporter at [email protected]


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