Juan Muñoz


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Spanish sculptor and installation artist, born in Madrid. In 1970 he moved to London, where he studied at the Central School of Art and Design. He is one of the sculptors credited, alongside Antony Gormley and Katharina Fritsch, with re-introducing the figure into sculpture in the 1980s. He did this with slightly under-life-size figures, distanced from the viewer by monochrome and scale in a somewhat theatrical setting. The effect is that they occupy the space of the spectator, yet their interactions remain fundamentally mysterious. It is clear that the figures exist as much to reveal the space, as for their own sake. Here there is a parallel with Minimalist sculpture. In The Wasteland (1987), a dwarf sits on a ledge in an otherwise empty room with elaborate illusionistic patterned flooring. Muñoz admired the Baroque and here he acknowledges both Velázquez, the great painter of dwarfs, and such masters of architectural illusionism as Francesco Borromini. Many Times (1999) is equally disconcerting. This is a roomful of small figures, all with the same Chinese head, who gesticulate, converse, and greet each other. It can at first be taken as a kind of celebration of human interaction until it is noted that none of the figures has feet and each is imbedded in the ground. He once said ‘The representation of movement and gesture within stillness is endlessly fascinating’. Muñoz also used the uncanny effect of things seen from below. An early series of sculptures consisted of balcony railings displayed high on the wall. The idea was developed in his final and most spectacular installation, Double Bind (2001), in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, in which figures were suspended in space. Muñoz also made a sound piece with the composer Gavin Bryars and worked on written texts with John Berger. He died suddenly while on holiday in Ibiza.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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