Flashback 2009:  my cousin Giovi (the wit and whisk behind Burro e Alici) was writing her master’s thesis on Vik Muniz, Brasilian meta artist.  Her research was going well, but Giovi wanted to go from Good to Great.  Whereas most of her friend were focusing on artists long since physically retired, Vik was running around the world creating visual art.  All she had to do was catch up with him.

After a week brainstorming, frenzied conversations with New York gallerists and airlines, Giovi was eating hand-made tacos with Muniz in his Brooklyn gallery, while I was having lunch with my nonna.  She floated back to the apartment with a smile equaling that of a 5-year-old girl on her first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle.  Dream Come True.

Flash Forward Last Week 2011: Walking through Piazza Navona, I stumbled across an invitation to Matrici Italiane, a show of Vik Muniz’s work in Galleria Cortona, the usually off-limits gallery in Palazzo Pamphilj, aka Brasilian Embassy.  [Note: for the past few weeks, I had been wondering how I would ever be able to see the gallery’s vault designed by Francesco Borromini and painted by Pietro da Cortona.]  Yes, we dropped everything and headed to Palazzo Pamphili to bask in Muniz.

Matrici Italiane is one of the best examples of why I live in Rome– contemporary art hanging under best-of-Baroque design. To me, Rome is the contant  combination-confrontation-juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and non traditional, and, for some, beauty and ugliness.  These very same themes are exhibited in Muniz’s seven pieces from his Pictures of Junk and Pictures of Magazine 2 series.   His series Pictures of Junk are large- scale, over-head photographs of tedious collages reinterpreting Old Master paintings such as Titian, Caravaggio and Velasquez.   On closer inspection, the collage material is discarded junk (i.e. trash) thoughtfully composed to “create” an existent masterpiece.  Pictures of Magazines 2 are photos of collages comprised of strips of magazines (text, images).   Muniz’s work is artistically and meticulously redundant- a photographic reproduction of a collage reproduction (by way of re-used materials) of a recognizable work of art.   Irony is not lost and the overall result (especially with a sense of humor) is stupefyingly beautiful from concept and process to final product.

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If only for a glimpse of da Cortona’s Life of Aeneas frescoes:

Matrici Italiane, Palazzo Pamphilj (Navona)

Wednesday, Thursdays, Friday 4pm to 7pm

Saturdays, 11 am to 7pm

through December 16

free