Saturday Art: ‘Last Conversation Piece’ by Juan Munoz

1:57 am in Art by Ruth Calvo

Last Conversation Piece

(Picture courtesy of krsalis photostream at flickr.com.)

Located in a field of its own in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Munoz’ Last Conversation Piece creates a scene that the viewer is invited to ponder for its impact.   The artist created several similar arrangements of enigmatic almost representational human figures, that balance on lower bodies resembling bags.   This was the last of the series.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Juan Muñoz began breaking the rules of traditional sculpture by sculpting works in a “narrative” manner which consisted of creating smaller than life-size figures in an atmosphere of mutual interaction. Muñoz’s sculptures often invite the spectator to relate to them, making the viewer feel as if they have discreetly become a part of the work of art. His slate-gray or wax-colored monochrome figures create a sort of discreetness due to their lack of individuality, but that absence of individuality questions the viewer, perhaps even so much as to make the viewer uncomfortable. When asked his occupation, Muñoz would respond simply that he was a “storyteller.”

The early death of Munoz of a heart attack in 2001 ended a career that had already been awarded several times with honors he minimized but earned.    The Hirshhorn’s sculpture was acquired soon after it was presented.

This sculpture consists of three pieces which display five figures with bulbous bodies (reminiscent of punching bags). Three are huddled together having a conversation, while two are at opposite ends of the space, moving towards the three in conversation. The three figures seem almost violent in their discussion while the two who rush towards them show concern.

His works invite participation and have long made an impression on the Hirshhorn’s many viewers, showing intensity that we can feel but not entirely enter into.

(Picture courtesy of Sarah and Jason at flickr.com.)

Juan Munoz' Last Conversation Piece