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The art and photography critic Fernando Castro reviews the works Aliento [Breath], Narcisos [Narcissi], and Lacrimarios [Tear Containers] by Oscar Muñoz that were exhibited at the Sicardi Gallery in Houston in March 2002 as part of Fotofest. Castro punctuates his discussion of each of the works with references to the events that inspired them (such as disappearances and murders), an explanation of the artist’s creative process, and his own interpretations. He describes Muñoz’s modus operandi as “the use of an unusual technique to produce a perceptive effect that leads to an abstract idea.” Castro goes on to analyze the various themes of Muñoz’s works: narcissistic contemplation of oneself as opposed to a concern for others; the power that photographic images have to keep alive memories of people with mnemonic prompts that makes us think about them; the relationship between the myth of Narcissus and the Biblical words, “dust you are and to dust you shall return;” and an emotional memorial to crime victims. In his review, Castro discusses the common thread of fragility and vulnerability he sees in the works that suggests the tenuous connections that exist between viewers and victims, our image and ourselves, appearance and reality, and art and reality. He ends by stating that although the artist intends the works to disintegrate, they are nonetheless “recomposed” as conceptual entities.
This review adds to and complements a previous article by the same author—the Peruvian critic Fernando Castro (b. 1964)—in which he discussed the work of the Colombian Oscar Muñoz (b. 1951) and the Brazilian Vik Muñiz (b. 1961) (“Muñoz and Muñiz.” Aperture, March 2002). It contributes to a greater appreciation and broader interpretation of Muñoz’s works by describing how he produces them and how the viewer perceives them, particularly in terms of their political, mythological, and photographical contexts. In his essay, Castro discusses some of the themes explored in the artist’s work, such as memory, that consider a recognition of oneself, the other, and the human condition, among other things. He acknowledges the works’ roots in a local context (by mentioning disappearances, obscurity, and murders) while also highlighting their existential meaning at a more universal level.
This article also helps place the works within the context of contemporary art, indicating their relationship with Process art, the questioning of photography as a document (in this sense it is an extension of the ideas proposed by Carlos Jiménez on the deconstruction of photography, Cf. “Ruinas y duraciones en la fotografía latinoamericana” [Ruins and Durations in Latin American Photography], [Revista Lápiz [Pencil Magazine], Madrid, 128 (Feb. 1997), n.p.], current reexaminations of performance and drawing (thus complementing the review by Mari Carmen Ramírez in Re-Aligning Vision, (1997) 178-9 and by Mónica Amor, “Oscar Muñoz en la Galería Ledis Flam, New York” [Oscar Muñoz at the Ledis Flam Gallery, New York], [Art Nexus 14 (December, 1994)], and an existential expression of conceptual art.
As a parenthetical note, other authors who have discussed this facet of Muñoz’s works are: Juan Fernando Herrán, “Historias, escenas e intervalos” [Stories, Scenes, and Intervals], Proyecto Pentágono: Investigaciones sobre arte contemporáneo en Colombia [Pentagon Project: Research into Colombian Contemporary Art] (Bogotá: Ministerio de Cultura [Ministry of Culture], 2000), and Leah Ollman, [“Exploring Metamorphosis and Ephemerality”, Los Angeles Times (Sept. 27, 2002), F 24]. In more specific terms, it should be noted that the name of the work Aliento was incorrectly translated as “Encouragement” instead of “Breath” at the Amnesia exhibition presented at the Bronx Museum of Art in 1998.