Patrick McGrath Muñiz @ Krab Jab Studio

March 5, 2017
Mr. Muniz does a terrific job of providing a fully encompassed swipe, if not coy jab, at American consumerism by treating it in a satirically sacramental manner. Indeed, the lust for the almighty profit, which drives the levers of the multinational mass consumer conglomerate (and the most iconic of these organizations are front and center for treatment) provides an easy context for treating it as oppressive to the more impoverished nations which have to deploy their labor to feed these beasts. Mr. Muniz could have swerved toward anger and vitriol, disdain and rancor with his images. But oh how tired and nauseating this method is! Especially when dealing with an artwork, a subject rather, that is so worn down. In and of itself it is a gamble to criticize capitalism, despite the artist’s inner confidence in being able to deal with it in an original manner. Perhaps it is this challenge in being novel which birthed such a treatment? Or perhaps Mr. Muniz has no concern with what other artists are doing and felt compelled within himself to paint something that speaks to him?
In any case, the near-cheeky iconography, done in a sacramental manner (and technically wonderful, with a bevvy of triptych’s) creates an elaborate diorama for the aforementioned ecology of multinational agglomeration. The laissez-faire advocate would contend that these workers, say in the treatment of the coffee trade, are provided the opportunity to earn a consistent wage with the demand by mass consumerism; however relentless the drive toward making the value of a bean as free as possible, and in turn how ruthlessly cannibalized the coffee growers are forced to become amongst themselves, and hence, the abrupt disability in earning surplus savings which can yield more industrious and hence wealthier opportunities. Instead, these growers cannot raise themselves beyond the harvest.
It is indeed an example of exploitation, as these growers are seduced by the consistent purchasing yet do not see the long-term consequences of such a lopsided matrimony. Hence the self-initiative to source from fair trade supply-chains, which enable the growers to reap higher returns on their yields and can lead to better prosperity for all. For indeed, if they can accumulate more capital they have more credit available to them for capital equipment purchases, enabling the growth in higher production as has been seen classically in all phases of agricultural production, with more food grown per acre than ever. Yet the multinational conglomerate has no sense nor privy to the long-term prosperity, only the short term immediate material profit.
They, and one in particular, is treated in an almost deific manner by the growers, paradoxically, in Mr. Muniz’s triptych. And this is quite a profound statement; as perhaps the source of the most original of worship rites come from a sense of gratitude or more crassly a sense of obedience to a power on-high which grants them life over death. How cruel this relationship is, then, and how ironic that Starbucks, such a purveyor of progressivism, has less than 10 percent of all its beans purchased fairly. This is the great schizophrenia of the multi-national corporation: of having a liberal social agenda publicized or rather marketed, and yet a corporatist means of production. Tragically, just as much as the coffee grower is adjoined to the mass market conglomerate, so too is the consumer, as the pervasiveness of Starbucks on the American landscape demonstrates. This, if there is a weakness in Mr. Muniz’s depiction, is a lacking sympathetic portrayal; at the very least, though, we have the treatment of these corporations as entities in and of themselves and not as necessarily outgrowths of the morality of the American people which might have been more stereotypical and also condescending to the viewer.


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