Arts Magazine: Freddy Munoz: Paintings 2002-2006

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program

World Wide Net Works
Spanish/French painter Freddy Muñoz brings an international sensibility to his new MAEP exhibition.

by Jodie Ahern
A STORIED CAREER in art, marked by decades of studying, creating, exhibiting, and teaching on three continents, culminates in “Freddy Muñoz: Paintings 2002–2006,” a Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) show featuring new paintings by Freddy Muñoz. Opening September 1 in the Minnesota Artists Galleries in the Target Wing, the exhibition comprises ten large (up to 9 feet by 13 feet) acrylic paintings on unstretched canvas, and several smaller paintings, and will remain on view through October 29.

Born in the 1930s in colonial Algeria, to a Spanish father and a French mother, the vibrant painter now works in his Minneapolis studio, advancing his signature themes and constantly evolving his technique to increasingly greater achievement. Muñoz is clearly on top of his game.

The new paintings are natural outgrowths of work he began in Mexico more than a decade ago, focusing on the theme of “apolcalypse.” The earlier paintings were dark and more specific to the theme, such as his Spirit and the Flesh of 2002, and Monkey, of 2003–5, using the symbols of live animals and carcasses of meat. Muñoz’s carcass paintings bring to mind the imagery of twentieth-century Russian painter Chaim Soutine, whom Muñoz calls “a formidable painter.” Other great painters he reveres are Diego Velásquez, Francisco de Goya, Pablo Picasso, and Mark Rothko. While it is tempting to invoke Francis Bacon, Muñoz does not “feel close” to the British painter.

The new evolutions of the apocalypse series are more abstract and even infused with some humor. They employ the repeating visual symbol of the rope net (“filet” in French, thus The Series of Filet), which links these works and provides a formal element for his compositions.

In fact, Muñoz likes to talk about his work in formal, technical terms, rather than belaboring its themes with “artspeak.” He talks about paint and canvas, line and shape, tools and brushwork, composition and color. “First of all, what I am doing is making a painting,” he said. Paraphrasing Willem de Kooning, whom he greatly admires, Muñoz said, “Each time I work, I want the result to be a painting.” His process is very Japanese, he said. “The Japanese painters observe, think about what they’ve observed, talk about it, dream about it, visualize, isolate, analyze, and contemplate until they are ready to express it. Then it all comes out in the painting.”

How it comes out is innovative as well as visceral. Muñoz hangs huge canvases on a studio wall, and approaches them carrying vats of thick acrylic paint, and wielding strange brushes and tools that he makes of sisal threads, nylon rope, sticks, and twine. In effect, he paints his nets using the same materials that make up an actual net. He enjoys the smell of the paint and the fibers, and he loves the physical action of the gestural brushstrokes that result in marks resembling hay. In addition to the nets, other repeating forms in his new body of work include reproduced images of Giotto-like putti and a pink barnyard pig. They are what they are, and viewers are invited to bring their own interpretations.

Citation: Jodie Ahern, "World Wide Net Works: Spanish/French painter Freddy Muñoz brings an international sensibility to his new MAEP exhibition.," Arts 29, No. 5 (September/October 2006): 16-17.