Thirteen Laughing At Each Other

Ever walk through a museum and feel like the figures in the exhibits are the ones watching you?

munoz-skyline
Photo courtesy of The Juan Munoz Estate, The Marian Goodman Gallery, and the Art Institue of Chicago

Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz has based his 2001 piece on this very sensation. When you walk through his exhibit in the Bluhm Family Terrace at the Art Institute, you won’t be looking at sculptures; they’ll be looking at you. Muñoz is a “storyteller,” who “writes the viewer into the drama.”

Thirteen bronze figures decorate four bleacher stands surrounding the terrace. The figures seem delighted with your presence and appearance, as their mouths open into wide grins, their hands and feet lift and stomp, and their eyes squint shut as their heads tilt back.

munoz-close-up
Photo courtesy of The Juan Munoz Estate, The Marian Goodman Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago

You become the “unwitting subject” in this artwork, feeling the pressure of being the center of (perhaps unfriendly) attention. You become engaged with this art in a way very unique to Muñoz. And, as he puts it, you begin to feel that something is wrong. Something is odd about the way you’re being regarded, but there’s no hope of asking your bronze viewers just what exactly they find so funny.

munoz-architecture
Photo courtesy of The Juan Munoz Estate, The Marian Goodman Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago

By adding the height, depth, and an effective frame with the bleachers, Muñoz’ design is able to incorporate a sense of architecture, unlike sculptors who focus solely on the figures. These are the elements that change the elevation of the display and convey the sense that you’re physically diminished in their eyes. Because, well, you are. If only we were allowed to climb up those bronze bleachers and see ourselves from their perspective…

This beautiful exhibit will be on display at the Institute until October 5th! Hurry out and see it this weekend, before it gets packed up or before it starts snowing!
Even more detail can be found here, at the website for the Art Institute.

Have a Scien-tastic day!

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