Critics’ Picks

Vik Muniz, Handmade: Untitled Circles & Newspaper, 2016, mixed media on archival ink-jet print, 26 3/4 x 22 3/4".

São Paulo

Vik Muniz

Galeria Nara Roesler | São Paulo
Avenida Europa 655 Jardim Europa
September 3–November 5

Vik Muniz’s latest collages are a rare foray into lighthearted abstraction, with swaths of bright color, and textures produced by simple arts-and-crafts processes. Frames enclose sheets of paper that have been crumpled, torn, and layered; punched with holes, stitched with yarn, festooned with ribbons—or so it seems. Each of the works is a partial trompe l’oeil, for which Muniz has combined material process with highly rendered photographs. The photos downplay their own slickness, upholding the pretense that the show’s title, “Handmade,” suggests. The jagged white edges of torn colored paper comprising Untitled (colored tears), 2016, seamlessly alternate with extremely detailed photographs of jagged white edges. Elsewhere, in Untitled (Crumpled paper ultramarine Blue Squares), 2016, we’re fooled into thinking Muniz has cut squares out of a rumpled sheet of paper. In reality, the paper is smooth but convincingly printed with images of wrinkles and square-shaped holes, drop shadows and all. Muniz’s punch lines are reminiscent of bubble gum: brief thrills taken from candy-colored paper.

The works on display seem to magnetically draw the viewer in for closer inspection. But mounted out of reach, inconspicuously above the inside of the gallery door, is a piece of photographic paper curling at its edges, shaded by a gradient from top to bottom. The 1987 Two Nails—which hails from early in Muniz’s career, before he came to focus on figurative collages with weighty political subtexts—is an image of a nail with multiple shadows affixed to the wall with an actual nail. An unfamiliar viewer would be hard pressed to discern which is which, or even whether the work is actually on a piece of paper or is simply another well-executed sleight of hand. From down here, it’s quite difficult to tell.