Vik Muniz is a rare contemporary practitioner of trompe l’oeil: a style of painting popularized in the seventeenth century in which objects are depicted with photographically realistic detail. Within Muniz's artistic practice, trompe l’oeil offers an opportunity to comment mischievously on artistic traditions and to challenge existing notions of art history. Verso (Nighthawks) hails from a series of works in which Muniz exactly replicated the backs of famous paintings found in major museum collections. Over the course of six years, Muniz worked with staff members of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and consulted with experienced forgers to create precise reproductions of the backs of signature works by Edward Hopper, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh, among others. Here, Muniz reveals the passing of time as manifested through typical wear and tear and alterations made to the back—or verso—side of a painting. Because the work is placed on carpeted bumpers, mimicking those frequently used by museums during installation, viewers are led to anticipate the reveal of one of the most iconic paintings in American art history—an image that does not exist in Muniz’s work.
Label from DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, August 21, 2012–January 6, 2013