Vik Muniz is celebrated for his photographs of everyday materials, which have been arranged to reveal provocative and delightfully unexpected images when viewed from a distance. These transformative still lifes often relate to social concerns, as seen in the selections from the series Pictures of Junk and Pictures of Garbage on view in this exhibition. Merging high and low cultures, Muniz used castoff materials to re-create such masterpieces as Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Jacques Louis David’s The Death of Marat.

By exploring the relationship between the supposedly timeless beauty of Western art and the grim realities of poverty and waste, Muniz reminds us that great cultural attainments throughout history have often been achieved in environments—and often as a consequence—of repression and economic disparity. This does not alter the greater truth of Muniz’s vision: beauty, humanistic values, and spiritual aspiration can be found in the most abject of worlds.

Vik Muniz: Garbage Matters is supported, in part, by an award from the UTC Aerospace Systems.

Organized by The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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