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5 things to know about Oscar Muñoz's first U.S. retrospective at Austin's Blanton Museum

Kelsey Bradshaw
Austin 360
"El juego de las probabilidades (The Game of Probabilities)," by Oscar Muñoz.  This piece, from 2007, is made up of 12 color photographs. It's from the collection of Cecilia and Ernesto Poma, courtesy of Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino.

Life is unstable and images are fleeting in Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz's first U.S. retrospective, hosted at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Muñoz's "Invisibilia" exhibit explores themes of memory, time and the impermanence of image, among others. Forty pieces Muñoz made over the last 50 years, including photographs, drawings, sculpture and video, are in the exhibit. The show is co-organized by the Blanton and the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona, where it premiered in September 2021.

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The exhibit also is the first solely dedicated to Colombian art at the Blanton. 

"Invisibilia" opened on Feb. 20 and will close June 5. We got a sneak peek of the exhibit before it officially started — at the time, it was still being installed due to delays brought on by freezing weather — and we have some insider info before you head to the Blanton.

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1. You can step on that.

The first artwork you'll see is on the floor. "Ambulatório (Walking Place/Outpatient Ward)" is made of 36 shattered glass panels. Photos underneath the panels show Muñoz's hometown of Cali, Colombia, after bombings there. You can step onto the piece and get a feel for what the area was like after it was struck. 

"This piece evokes the traces, the bits that are left behind at the end: In the days after the bomb has exploded, fragments of glass remain, like vestiges, incrusted in the pavement, practically unnoticeable until we come to step on them," Muñoz said of the work in a statement.

Latin American art curator Vanessa Davidson shows museum visitors through "Invisibilia," a gallery of work by Colombian visual artist Oscar Muñoz that opened at the Blanton Museum of Art on Feb. 20. This piece is a collection of portraits made out of coffee-stained sugar cubes.

2. Get close, without touching the work of course, for another view.

In "El juego de las probabilidades (the Game of Possibilities)," Muñoz uses cut-up photos — from forms of identification like a passport and a driver's license — to create several self-portraits.

On the wall parallel to this piece is "4x3," which features dozens of what appear to be just white squares. But if you get closer, you may start to realize the squares were once passport photos. Only slim pieces of the photo remain, like a hint of the shirt or the chest of the passport holder. We suggest spending time with these two pieces, looking closely at the tiny details of each version of Muñoz included in his self portrait.

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"Re/Trato (Portrait/I Try Again)" by Oscar Muñoz. This is a still of the piece, which is a 28-minute video projection without sound. It is from 2004.

3. Pause and listen.

In what was maybe our favorite piece in the exhibit, "A través del cristal (Through the Glass)" includes 28 photos of people who have died or have left their homes in Cali. Muñoz used video for this work and shows the reflections the people's homes in the photos. Take a moment to listen here. The videos include the sounds of regular goings-on at the homes, representing how time continues to march on even after a person has left.

A piece in "Invisibilia" uses a projector to depict the artist, Oscar Muñoz, arranging biographical photos on the wall.

4. You'll be part of the work, too.

"El Coleccionista (The Collector)" looks like a bunch of photos on a wall shelf, like one that might be in a home office. The images are actually projected onto a black wall. Muñoz appears to move photos from spot to spot on the projected shelf, which forces the viewer to try and figure out the importance of each photo. When looking at the piece, you might notice your shadow. We did, and if you stand there for a little while, you could start to feel like you're joining Muñoz in his movements. 

Museum visitors admire "Invisibilia," an exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art that showcases the work of Colombian visual artist Oscar Muñoz opening Feb. 20. This section contains pieces like photographs silkscreened onto a shower curtain.

5. Yes, those are shower curtains.

Walk through "Cortinas de baño (Shower Curtains)." Muñoz took the images of people's shadows while in the shower and put them onto the kind of plastic sheets you'd see in a bathroom. He used airbrush ink and then dripped water over the images, leaving them to look like eerie markings of people at a vulnerable and unguarded moment.

If you go

"Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia"

Where: Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas (200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.)

Tickets: Tickets to the museum are $5 for youth and college students; $10 for seniors; and $12 for adults. Museum members, University of Texas ID holders, children 12 and under, military members and teachers can all get into the museum for free.

More info: blantonmuseum.org