Juan Muñoz is one of the most important sculptors of his generation, and his enigmatic sculptures are no doubt a testament to the artist’s ability to confront, confound and beguile his audience. With a distinct emphasis on a return to the human form as well as on the relationship between sculpture, architecture and the viewer, Muñoz’s oeuvre is comprised mostly of sculptures, ‘conversation pieces’ and immersive installations that often place the viewer in a dramatic relationship to surrounding space and objects.
The present piece, Three Laughing at One, is one of Muñoz’s latest works completed in 2000–one year before his tragic death in 2001. Following true to the artist’s iconic style, Three Laughing at One is a sculptural tableau comprised of monochromatic figures of men in grey, all modelled realistically and dressed in contemporary attire. The dynamic trio, while life-like, is intended to elicit ambiguity, frustrate and trigger doubt. Visually, the polyester-resin figures scaled to under life-size so that a little perspectival trick allows the viewer to perceive them as being further away–and higher up–than they really are. The surprise of such effect draws the viewer closer to the sculpture and ultimately subverts the relationship between the viewer and the artwork: instead of commanding the perspective, the subject at once becomes the object and all at once, the viewer is the one being looked at, and laughed at, by the three ventriloquist dummies.
There is a mesmerizing sensation of ambiguity and tension ingrained into all of Muñoz’s sculptures. The experience of confronting these pieces can be described as provocative and violent, humorous and intrusive. As the artist once claimed of his works, “I sometimes feel that [some of] my work is about waiting, waiting for something to happen; on the one hand afraid in case it does happen, or even wishing that it had never occurred. It is like keeping a work in that state that we would call desire–keeping it at that level of desire, just holding it there that wish, that uncertainty, keeping the work still just here. Or like watching a door which one day a person might open.”
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