Friday, April 15, 2011

Fading as Memory Does

At the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem currently on display from March 12 – June 5, 2011 is Imprints for a Fleeting Memorial by Oscar Muñoz. The exhibit consists of many portraits representing people who disappear, and as the subjects, the images likewise are destined to fade before your eyes leaving only the memory of what once was. The images evaporate, drain away, deteriorate and crumble. A few are indistinct images burned into paper, but even those are not meant to last as the series progresses with the loss of the original subject.

The first display to catch my eye is a group of nine soft, warm faces each within their own square, placed close together to be essentially a piece of a larger square of unified work. The faces are each oriented as if focusing in different directions with varying expressions like they were caught in the middle of a conversation.

Walking slowly towards the display the faces become more obviously pixelated, made up of cubes of white and shades of brown. It isn’t until I come very close that the cubes reveal themselves to be crystalline granular constructions - sugar cubes. The array of browns is due to varying degrees of coffee saturation. Suddenly, I notice the crumbling of a few of the cubes, and the images that were at first soft and warm take on a bittersweetness as their deterioration becomes inevitable.

Each piece in the collection provokes contemplation of the fleeting lives we lead, and the fading of our own memories. Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” Oscar Muñoz’s work is an excellent, if sad, embodiment of this sentiment.

Another piece that illustrates this is a series of newsprint images blown-up and burned into six separate newspapers. As I begin to flip through the pages the images that were burned into the cover page utilizing a dot matrix become less and less evident until the last page is blank, but for a few dots devoid of any meaningful context.

The medium is as fleeting as the images created, yet somehow the poignant message seems branded upon my memory. Time will tell how well this stays with me.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra

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