With the start of the Venice Biennale all set for Tuesday, Monday is the day to see shows that opened up around town before the art crowds arrived—like, for instance, a Vik Muniz show titled “Afterglow: Pictures of Ruins” that began its run last month at the Palazzo Cini, a quiet, stately little house museum located between the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Dealers tend to be involved in museum exhibitions that are on during the biennale, and this one is no different—the show, which fills the second floor of the Cini, is a collaboration with Ben Brown Fine Arts, Muniz’s London gallery.
For better and worse, this is a pretty standard Muniz affair—which is to say charming, inventive, and more than a bit corny. The main attraction is a series of large-scale photographs of collages the artist composed after paintings of ancient sites by artists like Hubert Robert and Caspar David Friedrich, a fitting topic (though perhaps a bit too on-the-nose) for a show in a city sinking into the water. At a distance, they almost look like wildly expressionistic riffs on those Old Masters, while up close every little piece of paper, photograph, and text that he used is visible. For instance, one aping a Friedrich painting of a temple in Agrigento, Italy, with a fiery sky glowing behind it has a number of little faces embedded in the scene—from paintings, advertisements, and the like.
The sheer number of little components that make up these works stuns—the experience of looking at them made me wonder how many other things are lingering right in front of me, just out of sight—but it quickly began to feel gimmicky, the collaging random, as Muniz played the same trick over and over again. Thankfully, one floor below await delightful Renaissance works, like a Piero di Cosimo from 1505–10, Virgin and Child with Two Angels, with a joyous baby Jesus who looks like he is losing his mind in religious ecstasy.