In full color
Favoured by the sensuality and delicacy of large (in some cases very large) platinum prints, Isabel Muñoz’s black-and-white photographs are unmistakable. Series by series and journey by journey, they present dances as diverse as the tango, flamenco, Cuban ballet and belly dancing, blending them seamlessly with snapshots of bullfighters, Chinese flying monks, Turkish fighters, and the aerobatics of Brazilian capoeiristas. These images, placed side by side and framed, in all their unpretentious elegance, with such a surgical precision that they manage to recreate the idea of movement, tell the story of Muñoz’s fascination with challenging the eroticised body as intense as her attention to the vibrations of light. There is no room for doubt: Isabel Muñoz is one of the most intelligent and subtle black-and-white photographers out there.
Nevertheless, there exists a little-known yet significant aspect of Isabel Muñoz’s art –her colour photographs– that transcends the work she has done for magazines. If we look at two apparently opposing series of photographs, thus comparing two techniques that seemingly have nothing in common, we can glimpse the natural use of colour by an artist who never ceases to push the boundaries. The most dramatic series is the one in which Muñoz, at the price of a thousand risks and by dodging countless other dangers, places us in the middle of the religious practices of the recently revived order of Al Quadiriya in Iraq, a ceremony in which worshippers of Allah enter into a trance to achieve a state of invulnerability, feeling no pain as they slash their skin with razor blades which they then swallow, walk undaunted across piles of crushed glass and fearlessly pierce their own flesh. It is stunning, more so because of these acts of self-mortification than for the stance taken by the photographer, who somehow manages to continue shooting despite being surrounded by such frenzy, moving in close to her subjects to capture the rich details of textures and skins. Here we quickly perceive echoes of the great classical paintings, those provided in such abundance by churches and museums, which are reflected here in classically developed photographs that enhance the deep intensity of the colours and the passion of physiques set aflame with light. Visually, these “fools of God” differ little from the more fanatical Catholic martyrs and saints.
The inexpressive subjects from Ethiopia’s Surma or Omo tribes also interplay with the art of painting; these shepherd-warriors of the high plateaus spend their days painting their bodies, inventing landscapes on their backs, transforming their faces and hands into script, sometimes wearing plain yet rich gold or shell jewellery and in simple, tattered rags that are worn as if they were the most elegant of stoles. This interplay is further developed through Muñoz’s treatment of her subjects, somewhere between portraits and close-ups of the body, using the same luminous intensity that allows strokes of colour to emerge gently from the fine texture of skin. The mate tone of the stunning platinum colour prints recreates a series of material and tonal subtleties (you might find yourself wanting to reach out and touch them), mitigates their more decorative or frivolous aspect and, paradoxically, the partial tinting intensifies the chromatic effect. Thus, what ties these two singular series together is that ultimately the photographs are about colour, even more so than the subjects themselves: in both cases we find ourselves before photographs of colour rather than simply (and attributed to pure technique) before colour photographs.
Further proof of the harmony between works often presented in fragments, series, and destinations is that these two drastically opposed series lead us once again to the question of the body and how it is represented. Like two poles that attract and repel, this mystery of the form that takes shape in a constant search of pleasure is revealed between the proud nudity of the African tribespeople and the thirst for pain as a way to achieve the ecstasy of the mystic.
For now, what we see is all-encompassing, drawing on the nuances of a palette that seems limitless in its variations, never satisfied in its search for a totality that might possibly be found in the fervour and excess of some or in the power of the reaffirmed serenity of others.
|Contents||30 photographs in color, and 8 B&W|
|Size of Works||From 158x158cm to 195x195cm|
|Rental Conditions||The borrower is in charge of:|
- Transport from and to Madrid
- Insurance nail to nail
- Travel and Journey of Isabel Muñoz from Madrid, and Christian Caujolle (curator), from Paris
|Availability||From March 2016|
|Curated by||Christian Caujolle|