Juan Muñoz (1953–2001) counts among the artists who, in the 1980s, responded to minimalism and other abstract tendencies in art by bringing figurative sculpture back into play. Muñoz is a storyteller who uses drawing and space to stage his figures and objects. It is all about the basic situation that forms the beginning of every story – a person enters a space.
The space itself is evoked by everyday objects: a spiral staircase, balconies, a handrail. These are familiar things, ready and waiting like props for a play that is never performed. First of all, Muñoz draws the spiral staircase in emulation of the turning figure so typical of his work. The balconies indicate the wall of a building and evoke an outdoor space. The handrail marks a passage, offering security, albeit with the blade of an open knife beneath posing a threat for no evident reason.
The figures that Muñoz uses in his work are puppets, dwarves and ballerinas – all of which are motifs from the history of art – alongside ordinary people in familiar setttings. In this way, he creates situations akin to an intimate chamber theatre, staging plays that oscillate between truth and illusion, laughter and sadness, power and impotence. He subtly draws the viewer into this realm, while at the same time breaking any direct connection with the figures by portraying them in a life-like, but less than life-size, way.
The art of Muñoz’ is the art of fragmentation, scattering shreds of some unknown occurrence. The facial expressions and body language of the figures seem to articulate something, especially when they interact in pairs or groups. Yet they only appear to be doing something. Each figure stands and acts in its own right, isolated and self-absorbed. One example of this can be found in the model with the drummers, each of them drumming alone and unheard, with the mirror as their audience. Another can be found in the figures arranged in his Conversation Pieces with neither a past nor a future, frozen in amicable communication. Curated by Dieter Schwarz. (The Skulpturenhalle press-release)
The Skulpturenhalle.Thomas Schütte Foundation. Berger Weg 16. 41472 Neuss/Holzheim
Image: Sara with Billiard Table, 1996. Polyester resin, billiard table, light, 126 × 268 × 180 cm. Juan Muñoz Estate, Madrid, Photo: Stefan Hostettler, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018