Juan Munoz: Seven Rooms - Conversation Piece | David Zwirner
Hero image of Conversation Piece as part of Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms

Muñoz’s series Conversation Piece, begun in 1991, is one of the artist’s most sustained and emblematic bodies of work. Each work comprises a cluster of anonymous quasi-human figures in a social gathering whose gestures and relative positions evoke a frozen theatrical narrative.

An installation of five bronze and steel cable sculptures by Juan Muñoz, titled Conversation Piece, dated 2001.

Juan Muñoz

Conversation Piece, 2001
Bronze and steel cable in five (5) parts
Figure, each: 64 5/8 x 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches (164 x 80 x 80 cm)
Overall dimensions vary with each installation

“Their silent narratives eddy and flow tantalizingly around the beholder, deaf to the content but not the allure of their silent cadences.”

—Lynne Cooke, in the catalogue for Juan Muñoz: A Place Called Abroad, Dia Center for the Arts, 1996

An installation by Juan Muñoz, titled Conversation Piece, dated 2001, installed in Juan Muñoz at the Clark, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2010.

Juan Muñoz, Conversation Piece, 2001, installed in Juan Muñoz at the Clark, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2010. © Juan Muñoz Estate/VEGAP, Madrid. Courtesy Juan Muñoz Estate and David Zwirner. Photo by Michael Agee © 2010 Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Juan Muñoz, Conversation Piece, 2001, installed in Juan Muñoz at the Clark, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2010. © Juan Muñoz Estate/VEGAP, Madrid. Courtesy Juan Muñoz Estate and David Zwirner. Photo by Michael Agee © 2010 Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Muñoz worked on this series until his death in 2001, creating new groupings and inserting them into a range of situations both indoors and out, including key installations at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Palacio de Velázquez, Madrid; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, among others.

An installation view of  Juan Muñoz: Sculpture, Drawings and Installation, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1994. Photo by Kristien Daem
Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Sculpture, Drawings and Installation, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1994. Photo by Kristien Daem
Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Sculpture, Drawings and Installation, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1994. Photo by Kristien Daem
An installation view of the work Conversation Piece by Juan Muñoz, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, dated 2001

 Installation view, Juan Muñoz, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2001

 Installation view, Juan Muñoz, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2001

“Some of the best figurative sculptures seem to be aware of the impossibility of looking alive and aware of the boundaries they can occupy. The most successful ones are the ones that state those limits, the space between being just a sculpture and the man walking down the street. Not for a split second can you confuse one with the other.”

—Juan Muñoz

A painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir titled Luncheon of the Boating Party, circa 1880–1881

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, c. 1880–1881. Courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, c. 1880–1881. Courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

In this work, Muñoz reinterprets the term “conversation piece,” which describes a genre of informal group portrait that began in the eighteenth century and was popular in the nineteenth century among Impressionist painters like Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

An installation view from the exhibition titled Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, dated 2022

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

“Muñoz was convinced of the need to make sculpture that avoided any form of naturalism: ‘The more realistic they are meant to be, the less interior life they have.’”

—Neal Benezra, director of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

A sculpture by Medardo Rosso, titled Ecce Puer (Behold the Boy), dated 1906.

Medardo Rosso, Ecce Puer (Behold the Boy), 1906. Courtesy National Galleries of Scotland. Photo by Antonia Reeve

Medardo Rosso, Ecce Puer (Behold the Boy), 1906. Courtesy National Galleries of Scotland. Photo by Antonia Reeve

“These works are not sculptures in the modernist sense because they do not require to be viewed from various angles; on the contrary, Muñoz creates tableaus which, analogous to Medardo Rosso’s works, may be perceived from a particular point of view at a glance.”

Dieter Schwarz, curator of Juan Muñoz: Drawings 1988–2000, opening June 2022 at Centro Botín, Santander, Spain

An installation view from the exhibition titled Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, dated 2022

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

“The figures are always seen more than they see, more known then they know. Even as Muñoz insists on the necessity of human consciousness, he evokes an omniscient, godlike consciousness of which the consciousness of any human being is just a pitiful fragment—a consciousness so vast and pervasive that we, like the figures, will always be seen more than we see, known more than we know.”

—Michael Brenson, art historian

An installation view from the exhibition titled Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, dated 2022

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, 2022

A detail from the series by Juan Muñoz titled An Outpost of Progress (Drawing 2/13), dated 1992

NEXT ROOM:
AN OUTPOST OF PROGRESS

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