Still Life Redux: Vik Muniz at SAM

A large-scale photograph by Brazilian-born NYC artist Vik Muniz (b. 1961) replicates the painting Still Life With Fruits and Vegetables by Spanish painter Juan Sanchez Catan (dated 1602). A small image of the original oil hangs next to the giant photograph, in what is a sort of modern annex to SAM's "Inspiring Impressionism" exhibit. The 2004 photograph looks as though it's composed of holes punched from glossy magazines. These color-rich, white-edged dots add up to a scene populated with a head of greens, a cluster of carrots hung from a hook, and a lemon. The whole collage has then been photographed, and we see not an intimate oil painting (for Sanchez's work was small in comparison, just over 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide), but a work you have to step back from to read. What sort of still life is larger than life? This one—which very much acknowledges the tradition while exposing its own process, and perhaps nods to the fact that the many small bits of paper used to stage the photograph and the items depicted therein share an ephemeral nature. The rough-edged circles of color compel a longer look, though this homage makes me wish that this piece was shown next to its original (as are the works in the "Impressionism" show), which is in Madrid. The lettuce leaves do possess delicately lit ruffled edges, and though I'm charmed by the likeness, this over-big photograph also makes me hanker for the simplicity of an ancient still life. At least for a fair comparison. $13. Tues.–Sun. Ends Sept. 1.

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Aug. 6. Continues through Sept. 6, 2008

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