With Juan Muñoz (Madrid, 1953 - Ibiza, 2001) sculpture has the capacity to represent and show the crisis of the modern individual. Muñoz devises the exhibition Juan Muñoz: monólogos y diálogos (Juan Muñoz: Monologues and Dialogues) as the end of a journey, started in 1984 with his first individual exhibition in the Fernando Vijande Gallery in Madrid.
As James Lingwood, the exhibition's curator, points out, the collection highlights how his work “evolves in a constructive process that develops part of the totality.” The artist himself acknowledges how he has created his most interesting pieces in a language that, with the passing of time, feeds his works to form some kind of expression through, for instance, stairs, balconies and floor patterns.
Therefore, Escalera de caracol (1984) and Minarete para Otto Kurtz (1985) are considered the first formal and conceptual attempts of his subsequent work. Muñoz looks towards new ties between images and feelings, and employs time and again aesthetic techniques of Baroque Art, such as the approaches to perspective. By virtue of experimenting with scales and viewpoints his work is able to dominate space and distance (physically and psychologically) whilst also posing the dichotomies between: desire/impossibility, representation/description and the principle of presence and absence.
Juan Muñoz transforms the Palacio de Velázquez into a huge installation, whereby the chronological ordering of the pieces is of little importance; they are all distributed across two alternative courses but converge at the same point: Plaza, the centrepiece, has been created specifically for the exhibition. The space is populated by blind, near-lifesize figures that converse in groups. The viewer cannot mix with them, only contemplate them from a distance various possible heights.
In terms of the scenographic presentation of Muñoz' work, he acknowledges the drama, considering a good work of art (like a theatre piece) to be anything that in itself has meaning, something that cannot be replicated and lays its claims to existence beyond the viewer. The leading principles that give rise to his sculptures, installations and “raincoat drawings” are the crisis of man as a social being and the consequences of this crisis - confinement, isolation, silence, individuality. Running through all of these works is imaginary spaces comprising empty but habitable rooms, handrails, stairs, etc., that display figures without legs or with a spherical base, dwarfs, or the prompter and ventriloquist, which, when cast in this repertoire, work to represent challenges to the system and forms of communication.
With the whole of his oeuvre, Juan Muñoz brings the peculiarities of difference, absence, solitude and insecurity to light as well as the possibility of transit and the need for fixed points in a world reduced to paradoxical stages.
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