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American Flag, from the "America: Now and Here" portfolio

  • Accession Number:
  • Artist:
    Muniz, Vik
  • Date:
  • Medium:
    Digital chromogenic development print
  • Dimensions:
    image: 12 1/8 in x 22 in; paper: 20 in x 24 in
  • Credit Line:
    Museum purchase


About the Photographer

Muniz, Vik

Brazilian, b. 1961

Vik Muniz uses an array of techniques to insightfully transform objects and works of art into meditations on perception, art, and illusion. To create "Tony Smith," Muniz took dust collected over several months by the maintenance staff at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and used it to create a drawing based on photographs of a Tony Smith sculpture from the museum’s collection. The dust is easily discernable, as bits of hair, pebbles, and small scraps of paper appear larger than life. Although this photograph is in color, the dirt and dust particles make it appear monochromatic. In using a photograph of a sculpture to make a drawing to then photograph, Muniz playfully deconstructs the values we place on art objects and certain materials over others. A master in the art of visual trickery, he subverts photography by employing it to reveal its own unreliability.

While much of Muniz’s practice underscores artistic spontaneity and the fragile nature of art objects themselves, his unexpected materials also reflect shifting attitudes around visual icons. In response to recent historical events, American Flag (2009) shows the national banner as a flower arrangement. The print forms part of the America: Now and Here portfolio (2009), also containing work by Lyle Ashton Harris, Ross Bleckner, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl, Ralph Gibson, April Gornik, Sally Mann, Andres Serrano, Lou Reed, David Salle, Laurie Simmons, and Bill Viola. Muniz’s flowers conjure the grave markers of 9/11 victims as well as the newly recognized vulnerability of the United States. At the same time, the fresh floral composition bespeaks rebirth and hope in the wake of tragedy.

Born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1961, Vik Muniz currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He has exhibited his works internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museu de Art Moderna, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil; Musée de l'Élisée Lausanne, Switzerland; and the Fondation Huis Marseille, Amsterdam. Muniz's work is included in the collections of numerous museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museo de Arte Contemporanea, Prato, Italy; Museo de Arte Moderna de Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.