Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum to premiere first U.S. retrospective of Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz featuring drawings, installations, and photographic and video works
Phoenix Art Museum to premiere first U.S. retrospective of Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz featuring drawings, installations, and photographic and video works
May, 20, 2021
Exhibitions and Special InstallationsLatin American ArtSpecial Engagement Exhibitions
Phoenix Art Museum to premiere first U.S. retrospective of Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz featuring drawings, installations, and photographic and video works
Retrospective represents the first collaboration between Phoenix Art Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin
PHOENIX (May 20, 2021) –This September, Phoenix Art Museum will premiere Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia, the first retrospective of work by renowned Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz presented in the United States. Co-organized by Phoenix Art Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art, the traveling exhibition is curated by Vanessa Davidson, PhD, formerly the Shawn and Joe Lampe Curator of Latin American Art at Phoenix Art Museum who now serves as Curator of Latin American Art at the Blanton. The retrospective will feature a wide selection of approximately 50 works created by the artist over five decades that explore themes of time, memory, history, and knowledge. Beginning with Muñoz’s early charcoal drawings from the 1970s, it will feature hybrid works created over the past five decades that combine photographic processes with drawing, printmaking, installation, video, sculpture, and interactive elements. The exhibition will also showcase new work that has never before been exhibited. Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia will be on view at Phoenix Art Museum from September 11, 2021 through January 16, 2022 before traveling to the Blanton in Spring 2022.
“We are very excited to collaborate with the Blanton Museum of Art to bring an expansive retrospective of works by Oscar Muñoz to the United States for the first time,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “By refining and redefining the medium of photography, Muñoz has become one of the most significant contemporary artists working not only in Latin America but in the world. We hope audiences across the Southwest and the nation take advantage of this rare opportunity to experience his powerful and deeply human artwork.”
Born in 1951 in Popayán, Colombia, Oscar Muñoz is internationally renowned for materially diverse works that bridge the media of film, video, photography, installation, and sculpture to explore such elusive yet universal themes as identity, social amnesia, memory, and the transience of life. Working in a country beset by the catastrophes of civil war, he employs ephemeral materials like light, water, fire, and dust to create portraits and experiential works that associate the precarity of the image with the fragility of life and that are simultaneously indelible and fleeting. Muñoz explores photographic processes as the foundation of his practice due to the medium’s inherent relationship with concepts of time and history, in addition to its great potential for being deconstructed and manipulated for other formal and conceptual concerns. Although he does not consider himself a photographer, Muñoz was awarded the 2018 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. He has been the subject of international traveling retrospectives throughout Latin America and Europe, and has been featured in various group exhibitions globally, including in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Sweden, Spain, Paris, and New York City. His work has been acquired by numerous international private and public collections, including those of the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), Los Angeles, Calif.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass.; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, N.Y.; Tate Modern, London, UK; Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; and Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Colombia, among many others.
Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia represents the first collaboration between Phoenix Art Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art. Davidson has collaborated closely with the artist himself since 2018 to create this retrospective that traces the evolution of Muñoz’s radical practice over five decades.
“Oscar Muñoz is part of an outstanding and little-known tradition of conceptual and photographic art in Colombia that has transformed the global perception and understanding of contemporary Latin American art,” said Gilbert Vicario, curator of contemporary art at Phoenix Art Museum. “Dr. Vanessa Davidson’s comprehensive and scholarly focus on Muñoz’s practice will fundamentally change the depth of understanding of this artist’s work in relation to a larger conversation on conceptually driven, lens-based work since the 1970s.”
Invisibilia features works spanning the late 1970s through 2021, from early, photo-realist charcoal drawings to never-before-seen recent works that illuminate the artist’s increasing interest in literature and the configuration of text and image upon the page. Rather than presenting works chronologically, Invisibilia is organized into four overlapping sections that explore the intertwined themes at the heart of Muñoz’s experimental approach. Presence/Absence features works that examine the empty spaces that remain where once there was a concrete form or physical being. It explores the tension between our ability to see and our blindness to experiences or histories that we might rather forget or that are physically erased, replaced, or obscured from view. Memory/Amnesia highlights work that refers to the impossibility of permanence, especially in relation to the corrosion or transfiguration of memory over time and humanity’s tendency toward social amnesia. Appearance/Disappearance showcases works that often operate cyclically and evoke associations with the fragility of the image, the malleability of time, and the precariousness of life itself. Finally, Cohesion/Fragmentation presents works that are self-referential with regards to both process and conceptual content, frequently providing fleeting visual clues that viewers must actively complete in their own imaginations.
Key artworks in Invisibilia include:
Cortinas de baño (Shower Curtains) (1985-1986), a large-scale installation that fuses method with meaning, creating shadows of people in the bath by using water and airbrushed ink in serigraphs on plastic curtains. The resulting images are ghostly traces of absent bodies at their most intimate and vulnerable—nude and unguarded as they perform their daily ritual. Viewers are transformed into voyeurs of these shadowy specters.
Ambulatorio (Walking Place/Outpatient Ward) (1994-2008), an installation of a large aerial photograph of Cali, Colombia, printed on sheets of shattered security glass on which viewers are invited to walk and gaze down upon the city. Based on the experiences of several bombings in Cali, the glass crackles and fractures underfoot, just as urban pedestrians tread streets littered with glass after bomb explosions shattered windows in buildings.
Aliento (Breath) (1995), a series of seemingly blank mirrors that, when breathed upon by the viewer, momentarily reveal obituary portraits of those who have “disappeared” in armed conflict or otherwise. Here, there is a mirroring of presence and absence, memory and oblivion, as images of the disappeared dead appear only to disappear again when viewers are not looking at and breathing upon them.
Re/trato (Portrait/I Try Again)(2004), a video work depicting the artist attempting to paint a self-portrait with water on sun-warmed pavement, an image that quickly vanishes once the liquid makes contact with the hot ground. Viewers watch as Muñoz tries in vain again and again to complete the image over the course of 28 uninterrupted minutes.
Paístiempo/Countrytime (2007),a work featuring images and texts pyro-engraved on newsprint that dissolve and disintegrate as the pages are turned, mirroring the immediate obsolescence of periodical content after it is printed as well as Colombians’ numbing overexposure to violence in the news.
Libro abierto (Open Book) (2019), a book of shadowy photographic prints whose pages show a ghostly hand in the midst of turning pages, creating the optical illusion that the viewer is watching this action in progress.
“The universality of Oscar Muñoz’s work lies in his exploration of far-reaching themes of identity, time, knowledge, and history in diverse media,” said Davidson. “As viewers experience the exhibition, I hope they consider the ways in which Muñoz uses the simplest means, such as water on cement, to illustrate the transience of the image as a metaphor for the transience of life. Muñoz strives to ‘hacer memoria’—to ’make memory’— in his work. I also hope visitors contemplate how the meanings of the photographs they take and keep to document their own lives change over time, and how they help to build memory and community. What do our selfies say about us, and how do they themselves ‘make memory’?”
About the Exhibition
Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia will be on view from September 11, 2021 through January 16, 2022 in the Ellen and Howard C. Katz Wing for Modern Art at Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition is co-organized by Phoenix Art Museum andthe Blanton Museum of Art. Its Phoenix premiere is made possible through the generosity of The Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation, Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, and Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino, with additional support from the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members. For more details about the exhibition, visitphxart.org/exhibition/oscar-munoz-invisibilia/.
Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia will be accompanied by a bilingual catalogue in English and Spanish, constituting the first substantive monograph on the artist’s work in English. The exhibition catalogue will also be the first to consider the impact of the artist’s entire five-decade career, featuring works from the 1970s through 2020 to underscore his contributions to the field of conceptual photography in Latin America and beyond. It also features two interviews with Oscar Muñoz, as well as a text by the artist. The publication is designed by Tracey Shiffman Associates; published by Hirmer Publishers (New York and Berlin) in association with the University of Chicago; and edited by project curator Vanessa Davidson, PhD, formerly the Shawn and Joe Lampe Curator of Latin American Art at Phoenix Art Museum who now serves as the Curator of Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin. Contributors include: Florencia Bazzano, PhD, Blanton Museum of Art; Natalia Brizuela, PhD, University of California, Berkley; Marta Gili, former Director of the Jeu de Paume, Paris; Mariángela Méndez, PhD, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá; Oscar Muñoz; María Inés Rodríguez, Independent Curator and Curator at Large, MASP São Paulo; Elena Shtromberg, PhD, The University of Utah; Robert Storr, Visual Arts Director of the 52nd Venice Biennale, and former Dean of the Yale School of Art; Joan Fontcuberta, Independent Curator, Barcelona; and Alejandra Uslenghi, PhD, Northwestern University.
Admission is free for Museum Members; youth aged 5 and younger; and veterans and active-duty military and their families through the Military Access Program at Phoenix Art Museum (MAP@PAM), made possible through the generosity of Dr. Hong and Doris Ong, Nancy Hanley Eriksson, and Shamrock Foods Foundation. Entrance to the exhibition is included in general admission for the general public. During voluntary-donation times, the exhibition is offered to the general public with pay-what-you-wish admission. Voluntary-donation times include Wednesdays from 3 – 7 pm and the first Friday of each month from 3 – 7 pm. For a full breakdown of general admission prices and hours, see phxart.org/visit/.
To request interviews and high-resolution photography, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Phoenix Art Museum
Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 350,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit phxart.org, or call 602.257.1880.
About Oscar Muñoz
Born in Popayán, Colombia, Oscar Muñoz (b. 1951) studied art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Cali in the 1970s. As an art student, he began by making drawings based on photographic images, and although his studies did not specifically include photography or audiovisual media, his independent explorations of these media became central to his artistic practice. Known for his use of ephemeral materials in poetic reflections upon memory and mortality, Muñoz often bridges the media of film, video, photography, installation, and sculpture. His work has been shown in numerous international solo and group exhibitions, including those at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (MARCO), Mexico; Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia; Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), Lima, Peru; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museo de Arte del Banco de la República – Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogotá, Colombia; and High Line Art, New York, NY. Muñoz’s works are in numerous private and public collections around the world, including those at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogotá, Colombia; Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich, Switzerland; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Colombia; Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), San Francisco, CA; and Tate Modern, London, UK, among many others.
In 2006, Muñoz founded Lugar a Dudas (Room for Doubt), a cultural center and residency program for artists located in Cali, which has become a center for young artists to work through ideas and participate in a dialogue and public debate about art and politics with the larger community. For more information on the artist, visit sicardi.com.
About the Blanton Museum of Art
Founded in 1963, the Blanton Museum of Art holds the largest public collection in Central Texas with around 19,000 objects. Recognized as the home of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, its major collecting areas are modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and prints and drawings. The Blanton offers thought-provoking, visually arresting, and personally moving encounters with art.