Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia takes an in-depth look at fifty years of works that highlight the Latin American artist’s compelling examination of life’s fleeting moments via multiple artistic processes and media.
Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia
September 11, 2021–January 16, 2022
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix
Co-organized by the Phoenix Art Museum and Austin, Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art, Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia is the Colombian artist’s first United States retrospective. The exhibition features fifty works created by Muñoz over the last five decades—many of which merge distinct photographic processes with other mediums, including drawing, printmaking, and video.
Narcisos Secos is a prime example of the unique ways in which natural elements affect every person. The piece features nine portraits of a woman encased in plexiglass. Each has been silkscreened in charcoal dust and, earlier in the process, placed atop a container of water.
As the pieces settle into a dry state, temporal factors determine the course of their appearances. Each face presents a unique and distorted image from the water evaporating to any external motion that causes the charcoal dust to swirl or blow.
Aging—and the physical toll it takes on one’s appearance—immediately comes to mind, and it’s an easy natural reaction to the unavoidable facial deformation produced by Muñoz’s work. However, taking longer gazes at each portrait enforces their presence, inspiring the viewer to wonder about the emotions behind these expressions.
Viewers become voyeurs with Cortinas de baño (Shower Curtains). Airbrush ink and water are used to create these serigraphs—on plastic curtains—that show people in various positions as they take showers.
Sure, there’s a vulnerability to each subject as bathing is primarily a private experience. Still, Muñoz brings whimsy to the situation, making these life-size and using actual shower curtains as canvases. The multiple curtains are installed to hang from above, and you walk through the maze of naked bathing bodies.
In both works mentioned above, we are reminded of Muñoz’s achievement in creating balance in his work. While he blends a mastery of different techniques with a continuous light on the dynamic between the fragility and resilience of being alive, his hand doesn’t tip too heavily to either side. A piece like Cortinas de baño (Shower Curtains) could come off as cheeky—no pun intended—but Munoz’s humanistic thread keeps it above that line.
Editor solitario (Solitary Editor) is one of Muñoz’s standout video works. Using a Blu-ray video project on a table with sound, we see a hand continually moving around a series of photos that bring together an array of pictures, including some from a family album and others of iconic 20th-century figures.
The hand plays an unending rhythmic game of solitaire, reconfiguring the pictures. As different photos appear together, we see how quickly acts of change can create new scenarios and how each scene inspires new thoughts and interpretations. The fast and fleeting moments that shape our futures or cause us to reflect upon the past are once again Muñoz’s fodder.
Muñoz started his Interiors series in 1976. The ones featured in this exhibition show that inspecting the human condition and taking peeks at people at different points in time is the passion that bubbles beneath the artist’s surface.
Interior con figura (Interior with Figure) is no complicated video piece or a grand merging of techniques. Using only charcoal pencil on paper, it captures an older woman sitting at the edge of her bed in what seems to be a small room, given the edge of her bed’s proximity to the window.
Her hand holds down enough of a portion of the blinds for her to see what is happening outside. It’s the vagueness of the scene that incites the questions. Is that light flowing in due to dusk or dawn? Is she wearing only underclothes as she’s getting ready to dress or has she just undressed? Does it matter? It’s a frozen moment, a slice of solitude we consume from a distance. We don’t always need a narrative, as Muñoz’s exhibition reminds us. And whether we want it or not, we often don’t get one.
Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia is on display through January 16, 2022, at the Phoenix Art Museum of Art, 1625 North Central Avenue.