Conversation Piece with a Stick

Juan Muñoz


Sculpture, 158 x 90 cm.
Materials: brass

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. BK6887_M148).

A mysterious bronze figure with no legs and semicircular lower-part like a big bag. This humanlike figure is a familiar form in the work of Juan Muñoz. This sculpture is a doll-like depiction of a human obstructed in his movements. He appears to be doomed to infinite motion without ever being able to change position. The bag the doll is imprisoned in evokes feelings of powerlessness, solitude and longing. The figure is sufficiently human for us to see him as a fellow being, but also odd enough to arouse a puzzling tension. The sculpture is also smaller than life-size. Muñoz did this deliberately, as he explains: ‘You shouldn’t make things the same size as they actually are. They have to be bigger or smaller. I make mine smaller because that creates a greater psychological and conceptual distance between the viewer and the object.’ 

Muñoz called these human-like figures ‘automatons’; they look like people, but they are utterly inhuman. He wanted to make a human figure that reflected the ultimate image of man, just as there is one, single, constantly recurring portrayal of the Virgin Mary (always the same clothes and facial features) and Christ (always the long hair and beard). Muñoz described it as follows: “In many paintings from the Early Renaissance, by Giotto for example, you see the same face repeated almost identically for the same figure. These figures are stripped of their personality and become almost surrealistic. Many artists were fortunate and made use of these images for years. If I could create a figure that was equally depersonalised, I would be able to work for a million years.”

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