Known for his playful work in experimental media, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz reimagines popular imagery—like Warhol’s screenprints of the Mona Lisa or Hans Namuth’s photos of Jackson Pollock—in substances like chocolate syrup, sugar, spaghetti, peanut butter and jelly, and industrial garbage. The often deceiving and optically manipulated photographs of these experimental compositions have been exhibited in contemporary art establishments world-wide, notably at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and El Museu de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo.
In his Album series, Muniz utilizes thousands of second-hand-store scrapbook pictures to construct larger images of common personal themes—childhood photos, vacation snapshots, a candid moment with a loved one. In addition to adding a painterly texture to each rendition, the use of deconstructed photographs to compose a larger image emphasizes the universality of experience and introduces a historic depth to ordinary moments.
The iconic mug shot of George Stinney Jr., the youngest person in United States history to be put to death, presents a marked departure from the otherwise mundane family-style images of the Album series. Created in 2016, Muniz’s poignant collage comes at a time of renewed concern over the extent of institutional racism in the United States. At 14 years old, Stinney was convicted of the murder of two white children in what was later deemed to be a racially-biased and unconstitutional trial in South Carolina.1 The integration of Stinney’s loaded mug shot in a series containing otherwise “normal” images of white America can be seen as distinguishing the everyday experience of black Americans as one of constant threat of legal persecution.
Active in social justice movements across the globe, Muniz has received the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum and a UNESCO nomination as a Goodwill Ambassador. His documentary Waste Land (2010) about the catadores, or collectors of recyclables, working in the largest garbage dump in the world won Best Film at the Sundance Film Festival and earned a nomination for an Academy Award.2 After completing construction on Escola Vidigal, his school of art and technology for low income youth in Rio de Janeiro, Muniz has been a featured guest speaker at the TED Conference, Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. He currently splits his time between New York and Rio de Janeiro.
– Rica Maestas
 Bever, Lindsey. “It Took 10 Minutes to Convict 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. It Took 70 Years after His Execution to Exonerate Him.” The Washington Post, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.
 “WASTE LAND” http://www.wastelandmovie.com. Almega Projects, n.d. Web.