Oscar Muñoz


Popayán, Colombia, 1951.
Lives and works in Cali, Colombia. His work has been exhibited in numerous group shows including the Venice Biennale (2007), Prague Biennale (2005), and Cuenca Bienal (2004); in 2008 he had solo exhibitions at the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada, the Herzliya Museum, Israel, the Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA), London, UK, and the Museo Extremeño e iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz, Spain.

Description of Óscar Muñoz' practice

Over the past three decades, Óscar Muñoz has developed a remarkable body of work that explores the relationship between image and memory. His work defies characterization by medium, blurring the boundaries between photography, printmaking, drawing, installation, video and sculpture. Although he has abandoned traditional formats, he cleverly utilizes specific technical and conceptual aspects of printmaking-occasionally incorporating self-destructive elements to purposely challenge the consistency of reproduction that is synonymous with printing.  The expressive power of his work is as grounded in the intrinsic qualities of the materials he employs as in the poetic associations they embody.

Through his innovative processes, such as printing charcoal pigment on water, or using human breath to reveal discretely printed portraits onto seemingly blank mirrors, Muñoz creates unstable images that oscillate between presence and absence. He uses images from newspaper obituaries that include victims of the drug trafficking and political conflicts in Colombia where he lives and works. He is fascinated by photographic images as the primary documentation of a person’s physical existence in a culture overwhelmed by the vulnerability of life: the person’s image, imprinted on film (or captured in digital code), leaves an indexical trace of their being. Muñoz manipulates the photographic images in order to question the meaning of identity and to reflect the process of recollection and fading memory, alluding to the transitory nature of human existence, memory and history. The viewer witnesses the dissolution of an image as a manifestation of the person’s disappearance or death. Highly regarded as one of the most important visual artists working in Colombia today, Muñoz has captivated audiences around the world with the universal subject that underlies all of his work-the commonality of loss and remembrance.


Narcissi in process is a set of self-portraits printed in charcoal pigment on water in shallow vitrines lined with paper; the water slowly evaporates during the course of the exhibition, eventually allowing the pigment to settle onto the paper in a slightly altered version of the original portrait image—the variability inherent to the process makes the resulting image in each vitrine unique.

Biographies is a video installation of portrait images taken from newspaper obituaries. Muñoz created these video portraits by printing pigment onto water in a sink and filming the disintegration of the image as the water drains; the video also shows the process in reverse so that the portrait continually dissipates and reconstitutes.


Narcisos (Narcissi), 1999
Suite of nine works; charcoal powder on Plexiglas

Narcisos secos (Dry Narcissi), 2006
Charcoal powder on paper, Plexiglas vitrines

Narcisos en proceso (Narcissi in Process), 2010 (series 1994 and ongoing)
Screenprinted charcoal powder on water, paper, Plexiglas vitrines

Biografías (Biographies), 2002
DVD videos, painted wooden boards, aluminum drains, sound system

*Image credit: Constance Mench, Philadelphia Museum of Art

More Info

On view in the Berman Gallery
Main Building
Philadelphia Museum of Art

26th & Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646
(215) 763-8100

Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-5pm