Juan Muñoz

Juan Muñoz, "Del Borrar", 1986.

This exhibition commemorates the 70th year since the birth of the artist Juan Muñoz (Madrid, 1953 – Ibiza, 2001). In recent decades, no other Spanish artist had achieved such international fame, with a dazzling career from his first exhibition in 1984 until his untimely death at the age of 48. The show—which will be a prolongation of the exhibition on view at Alcalá 31 between February and June 2023—will focus on the first ten years of his practice.

His early output was marked by manifold open lines of research. On one hand, he was interested in the paradox between the immateriality of symbolic language and the material violence of sculpture, in a derivation of the arte povera and conceptual movements of the preceding decades. On the other, the introduction of theatricality—of the physical and emotional reaction of visitors to an exhibition—as a basic element when it comes to conceiving the installation space and the protocols for interpreting an artwork.

Juan Muñoz started to produce work late, after having worked as an exhibition curator and writing critical reviews with notable success. This gave his first works a surprising maturity and, after just eight years, his work evolved so fast that it had already acquired its own personal, highly sophisticated and readily identifiable language.

Since the mid-80s, Juan Muñoz had embarked on a recovery of figuration in sculpture but it was his engagement with its installational qualities and architectural vocation that gradually gave his work an increasingly more monumental scale. At the same time, his works also became psychologically more complex. While the question of theatricality conveyed to the spectator an impression that they had entered the exhibition at the wrong time, as if they had arrived too early or too late to a work being performed, the multiplication of the number of figures and spatial resources gave way to an existential relationship that tends to suspend the disbelief of the audience, to erase the distance between exhibition and reality. Juan Muñoz reminds us that being in an exhibition is also being exposed. But making visitors feel like characters in a play being acted out is also putting them in a risky position: it presupposes a recognition of a fragile position, of emotional submission, by giving over control to the storytelling artist.

The exhibition hall is caught between reality and fiction or, in other words, it keeps reminding us—like a reflection in a mirror—that reality is no more than a particular mode of representation. Straddling two centuries, Juan Muñoz’s work was an outpost for the speculative shift that now characterizes art in the immediate present.

With the support of
Logo Cervezas Alhambra