Sunday, December 15, 2019

A New Acquisition

We have now made our third acquisition of a painting by Patrick McGrath Muñiz and I thought it might be of interest to a wider audience. [If you go to Missives from the Art World and put the artist’s name in the search engine you will find that I wrote my first missive about the artist in 2015.]

Collecting as a family has its great advantages, as we can discuss and enjoy together, but also its disadvantages, in that sometimes something one loves, the other does not, and we have to leave it behind.  Here was a picture that we came together on and now have a work of art that we can enjoy every day when we walk into our living room.

Evoke Gallery in Santa Fe carries McGrath Muñiz’ work and they recently had a one-man show.  As we would be traveling at the time of the opening, we asked the gallery to send us images of the works in advance and we picked out certain ones to view before they installed the show. When we saw them in real life, we realized that our favorite had certain passages that disturbed us.  We had a very good gallerist who listened to our discussions and brought out other works we had not selected. When she brought out “Monachus Mundanus” (Monk of the World) we both said, “That’s it!”  If you click on the image to enlarge it you will see more details. 

My wife, the curator, art historian, and lover of Spanish Art was immediately attracted.  This artist clearly has a great interest in the Old Masters and has studied them carefully, using their techniques and sometimes borrowed figures as he did in our new acquisition.  Style is one thing, but the content is totally his own.

Patrick was born in 1975 in Puerto Rico where he went to the School of Fine Arts of San Juan for his BA. He later went on to earn his master’s degree (Suma Cum Laude) from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

In our picture he is clearly inspired by the paintings of Francisco Zurbaran but his figure in Franciscan robes is also a self-portrait. The canvas measures 24 x 48 inches so it makes quite a statement.  There is so much more to it with all its symbolism. The artist states that he is commenting on climate change and man’s culpability in the worldwide problem.  

The monk holds a skull in the manner of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. Did you notice the barcode on the skull, a symbol of the consumer and, in the artist’s words, the “disposable nature of humanity”? As an aside my favorite painting in New York since I was 10 years old (the age I was finally allowed into the Frick!) has been Giovanni Bellini’s, St. Francis in the Desert, no skull, but in a beautiful landscape

The fractured ground our contemporary Monk stands on suggests the foundations of our civilization are beginning to crack.  The flooded highway in the background refers to the devastation Hurricane Harvey wreaked on Houston, Texas, where the artist now lives. The drowning cow and submerged car represent the contributions to climate change of the meat and automobile industries.  In the boat to the left we see a miniature Trump, a fast food worker and a Trump supporter praying to the sanctified Ronald McDonald, holy king of burgers!

Our current president is an embarrassment to our country, but I like Patrick’s take.  He has put Trump in other paintings more obviously, but I did not want his ugly mug staring at me. Here he is insignificant, which is what I pray for. The Latin taped inscription, translated says, “I believe in the life, transformation, death and resurrection of all religions, states, corporations and all the other human fictions”.  There is still more symbolism, but I believe I have given you the idea. Patrick doesn’t just paint but thinks a lot, and references history from recent to past.  Would it be too trite to say Patrick McGrath Muñiz is a thinking man’s artist?

A few days ago, Patrick posted a “monograph” of his work over the last 20 years and it is done the new way with a 7-minute video.  So, if you want to see more ...

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