Juan Muñoz

Juan Muñoz, Broken Noses Carrying a Bottle #1-3, (installation view), 1999
Juan Muñoz, Broken Noses Carrying a Bottle #1-3, (installation view), 1999

Although many of Juan Muñoz’s (b. 1953 Madrid) sculptures initially seem playful, they also have a darker side. In reproduction the figures he makes out of fibreglass look as if their skin has been burned, scarred or melted. In reality they are remarkably similar to calcified objects from a limestone cave, stalagmites that have been polished by the hands of countless visitors. The figures often seem to be in suspended animation, as if suddenly immobilised – like Medusa’s victims or the inhabitants of Pompeii – but fully conscious. In his sculptures, with their eyes pinned open, there is no respite from either the world or consciousness.

For TRACE Juan Muñoz installed three single figures in the Oratory near the Anglican Cathedral. The Oratory was used for the display of assorted Victorian sculptures, including a large bronze near the centre of the space. Muñoz installed his resin figures – entitled Broken Noses Carrying a Bottle (1999) – within this context. At first sight these new additions to the space seemed consistent with the existing Victorian statuary. However, one soon noticed their strangely animate character, combined with an equally unsettling dissimilarity to real human bodies. While the heads of the figures were derived from life, the bodies were made from clothing stuffed with soft material and then cast in resin. As anatomical representations the figures were loose and provisional, and yet the materials out of which they were constructed contained the traces of other, absent bodies.

Juan Muñoz at Liverpool Biennial 1999

Broken Noses Carrying a Bottle #1-3
, 1999
Resin Figures
Collection of the Artist and Lisson Galery, London
Exhibited at the Anglican Cathedral