Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms - Schwelle (Threshold) | David Zwirner
Hero image of Schwelle as part of the exhibition titled Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms

“The figures that Muñoz uses in his work are puppets, dwarves and ballerinas—all of which are motifs from the history of art—alongside … people in familiar settings. In this way, he creates situations akin to an intimate chamber theatre, staging plays that oscillate between truth and illusion, laughter and sadness, power and impotence.”

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

An installation of terracotta columns and a bronze figure by Juan Muñoz, titled Schwelle (Threshold), dated 1991.

Juan Muñoz

Schwelle (Threshold), 1991
Terracotta columns and bronze figure
Figure: 42 1/2 x 17 x 11 inches (108 x 43.2 x 27.9 cm)
Height (with columns): 98 3/8 inches (250 cm)
Overall dimensions vary with each installation

Schwelle (Threshold) (1991) features a set of towering columns comprising stacked terracotta blocks. Belying their assumed function as architectural supports, the columns stop short of the height of the room, seeming to hold the weight of nothing at all. Spread across the width of the room, they delineate a space-within-a-space, creating a boundary (or threshold) between the viewer and the sculptural field.

Installation view, 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

Though the columns evoke the minimalist ethos of utilizing industrial materials, Muñoz challenges that paradigm by imbuing the installation with a psychological dimension, hand-making the terracotta blocks and including a human figure, who stands sentinel amongst the pillars, gazing straight ahead.

Installation view, 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

Referencing the unique influence that dwarfs held in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European courts as the only individuals allowed to levy criticism against the monarch, Muñoz was influenced in particular by the paintings of Spanish master Diego Velázquez as well as the personal story of the rococo architect François de Cuvilliés, which convey the historical position of these figures.

A detail from a painting titled Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, 1656

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656 (detail)

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656 (detail)

Installation view, Juan Muñoz Arbeiten, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, 1988–1990

Installation view, Juan Muñoz Arbeiten, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, 1988–1990

Installation view, Juan Muñoz Arbeiten, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, 1988–1990

Installation view, Juan Muñoz, Thomas Schütte Foundation, Neuss, Germany, dated 2018

Installation view, Juan Muñoz, Thomas Schütte Foundation, Neuss, Germany, 2018

Installation view, Juan Muñoz, Thomas Schütte Foundation, Neuss, Germany, 2018

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Rooms of My Mind, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, dated 2006

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Rooms of My Mind, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2006

Installation view, Juan Muñoz: Rooms of My Mind, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2006

Originally designed to fit the domestically scaled Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany, the installation has subsequently been shown at the Thomas Schütte Foundation, Neuss, Germany, and K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.

 An installation view of the exhibition, Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, at David Zwirner in 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

“Unlike the spectator watching a theatrical performance, the viewer approaching a work of Muñoz’s in a gallery is projected into the same space as the sculpted figures, and is made very aware of his or her positioning in relation to them, including a sense of being excluded, or ignored—an effect not to be had in the theatre, sitting in the dark, set apart from the performance unfolding on stage.”

—Alex Potts, in the catalogue for Juan Muñoz: A Retrospective, Tate Modern, 2008

Installation view, 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

An installation view of the works Hanging Figures featured in the exhibition titled Juan Muñoz: Seven Rooms, David Zwirner, New York, dated 2022

NEXT ROOM: HANGING FIGURES

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