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Grave Matters

The MFAH gives life to a provocative exhibition of Latin American art

Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz remembers the dead in equally ephemeral materials. For Pixels (2003), he created portraits of assassinated men using sugar cubes painted with coffee -- materials associated with his native country. The grids of sugar cubes act as large pixels; painted with brown coffee, they create abstracted but recognizable images. The faces are hazy and pale, seemingly taken from bad newspaper photographs, but you can tell the images are postmortem; their heads loll to the side, seemingly streaked with blood or dotted with bullet holes. We don't know who they are or why they died, only that they're dead and they died violently. The portraits could melt away with a glass of water -- the nature of the materials is a reminder of how fleeting life can be.

Muñoz also addresses violence in Ambulatorio (1994-95), which shows an aerial view of his hometown of Cali, in which we see an urban mass of buildings and housetops cut by city streets. Cali, home to more than two million people, is also inextricably associated with drug-related violence. Placed on the floor, the work's approximately 22- by 20-foot grid of photographs is overlaid with panels of shattered safety glass. The cracks in the glass radiate out over the entire city. No one is exempt.

Daniel Martinez's crouching mannequin will creep you 
out.
Tom Dubrock, MFAH
Daniel Martinez's crouching mannequin will creep you out.

Details

Through April 30
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5601 Main, 713-639-7300

Vicario has pulled together an extremely well curated show built around intriguing ideas and interesting artists. The result is an exhibition that remains seared on your brain long after you have left it.

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