Muniz's practice is based on drawing with the most unexpected of all materials - sugar, back hoes, spaghetti. This documentary follows him on a project in Jardim Gramacho, at the time the world's largest garbage landfill in Rio de Janeiro. He enlists the recyclers who live nearby and work in the landfill to help him sift through material and pose for photographs that he will draw with garbage.
For me, the most telling moment was when the finished products of his work - a photo series - went on sale at a big London auction. All the other work at the show seemed ironic and detached. It felt like the artists were laughing at us if we were not in on the joke. Muniz was there with some of the those who worked with him and lived in Jardim Gramacho. It was a moment of exquisite humanity but seemingly characteristic of Muniz for whom fame and celebrity have not made him lose his connection to people.
Unlike most other movies about artists that always include side interviews with their assistants, for this project his assistants are people who live just above the poverty line and take pride in their work even if it is easy to find it repulsive. In other documentaries, the assistants are all artists as well, seeking to learn from a master but fully immersed in the world of art. That telling difference with other documentaries shows how Muniz has maintained a connection with people despite being one of the world's leading artists.
Along with the refreshing humanity that he brings to his work, Muniz is also an imaginative innovator, finding new and different ways to draw with the most unexpected materials that carry their own story and meaning to his art. I often hear people comment that today's art will not stack up against the art of past centuries. I believe Muniz's art will stand the test of time because of his artistic talent but also because of the humanity he expresses in his art.
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