Oscar Muñoz


Oscar Munoz

Ante la imagen (Confronting the Image)
Edition Size: 50
Medium/description: etched mirror with portfolio box
Dimensions: mirror- 4 ¼ x  6 inches; portfolio box- 8  x  10 inches


Óscar Muñoz is one of the most fascinating artists working today on the subject of memory in relation to the photographic image. The images in Muñoz' work continually oscillate between presence and absence, stability and decay, alluding to the ephemeral nature of human existence, memory and history. Muñoz's oeuvre defies media characterization, moving freely between and among photography, printmaking, drawing, installation, video and sculpture, effectively blurring the boundaries between these practices through his use of innovative processes: screenprinting on water; drawing with a cigarette; engraving a dot-matrix pattern with a wood-burning tool; or requiring the visitor to breathe on seemingly blank mirrors to reveal discretely printed portraits. The expressive power of his work is as grounded in the intrinsic qualities of the materials he employs as in the poetic associations they embody.
Ante la imagen, (Confronting the image)  created especially for Philagrafika 2010, is the result of Muñoz’ ongoing contemplation of the photographic image and its apparent inability to live up to the memory of a particular person, since the photograph, a fixed representation, cannot fully capture the fluxuations of the human spirit.

This piece was made by etching the back of a mirror. The etched image is a male portrait, but unlike many of Muñoz’s previous works (such as Narcissus), the portrait is not of himself. Here the artist has appropriated an historical image, allegedly the first ever photographic image of a human being: the self-portrait daguerreotype of Philadelphia chemist Robert Cornelius, made just two months after Daguerre’s invention had been revealed to the world, and inscribed in Cornelius’s handwriting (on the back):“The first light picture ever taken, 1839”.

Like with a daguerreotype, Óscar Muñoz’s version also requires us to manipulate the reflective surface to view the image, and in doing so we see ourselves superimposed on Cornelius’ portrait. But in Muñoz’s work, the portrait is never truly fixed; it is always changing, reacting to air and humidity, slowly decaying, a beautiful-and tragic-metaphor for life. The subject of Muñoz’s work is not Robert Cornelius himself, but rather that moment when the fleeting image of the camera obscura was fixed for the first time. Muñoz unfixes it and returns it to a state of flux, prone to decay, like life itself.


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