Juan Muñoz

Galeria Marga Paz

Juan Muñoz uses images in his work that evoke a world where dream and illusion are the rule––a place where subconscious desires and the absurd are connected. The absurd is, for Muñoz, a source of creative energy not only for artists, but for all humankind. For those internal and external, equivocal and contradictory circumstances related to us contribute to knowledge as much as the logical and the manifestable does, and are presented in sharp profile or tinged with darkness and uncertainty.

Muñoz thinks of art as a form of knowledge, and if rational knowledge pertains to science, the artist prefers to go in another direction: bringing to light chimerical visions, possible fictions. As an alternative to desire, or perhaps as another way of materializing it, Muñoz often proposes the idea of a voyage in his works, and he develops a sense of space in them. They directly evoke time, inducing a meditation on the meaning of time and space as they condition existence.

With his sculptures, drawings, or installations, Muñoz creates spaces rich in connotations. They take us, through memory, to vibrant imaginary places. His spaces invite us to discover other, nonphysical spaces. In Barco con motor (Motorboat, 1989), Muñoz takes up this issue clearly. A small boat leans against the wall atop a carved wooden bar onto which is attached a belt that leads to an electric motor. On the adjacent wall, there is a drawing on black cloth depicting the interior of a house––a conventional room––and a picture of boats in a quasi-Oriental seascape. The dialogue established between these two works is reinforced by their proximity in the gallery. Barcos (Boats, 1989), a drawing in an almost academic style, provokes the viewer through its radical chiaroscuro, its silence, and its nondecorative bent. Barco con motor, on the other hand, is a poetic object of multiple parts that creates a tangible atmosphere in the room, evoking reality through a purely imagined composition that also includes the absurd.

As the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa has pointed out, more important than being able to move tangibly is knowing how to travel in one’s mind, pushing it further and further beyond the monotony of everyday life. Muñoz’s poetics combine the familiar with the strange, and in this show he achieves an increasingly synthetic and precise language. The images are not conciliatory; they are disturbing. They produce a shock that stimulates the imagination and alters the viewer’s perception of reality.

Lying Parrot with Skirting Board, 1989, is a bronze sculpture on a pedestal, integrated at its base with the wall through the use of a wooden baseboard that mimics the wall’s. The sculpted parrot is associated with the nearby seascape that now takes on a metaphoric dimension. Among the three works a broken syntax exists, but the nexus is never lost. The bird seems to be sleeping, perhaps dreaming, as dream is the uncertain crossroad of what confronts us. All this leads to the concept of chance. Jung speaks of an aimless order in which chance serves as a balancing element. But chance cannot be predicted; it is aleatory, and it fascinates us because of the surprise it can cause––but also because of the relief it can provide. In this sense, the revindication of chance in art also implies the revindication of the unconscious.

Muñoz seems to be looking for a balance between the conscious and the unconscious. He knows that such an approach implies many risks, but he is determined to confront them. Bailarinas (Dancers, 1989), for example, is a synthesis of his various formal and conceptual methods. These dancers create a small theatrical world, a microcosm, where the spectator remains marginal, not directly involved in the action on stage. The dancing figures can whirl around on their own; they can move on surfaces that elevate them above the crowd. The performance seems an event whose outcome cannot entirely be forseen.

Aurora García

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.