Juan Muñoz Seated Figures with Five Drums 1999

Juan Muñoz
Seated Figures with Five Drums 1999
Private collection © The estate of Juan Muñoz

Closed in a conspiratorial circle, the Seated Figures with Five Drums 1999 are as inward-looking as Muñoz’s works with standing figures. Oblivious to the presence of the viewer, they are wholly engaged with each other and with their drums.

The drum was an important motif for Muñoz, appearing in works such as The Prompter, and he once inscribed a photograph of himself dressed as a drummer boy with the words ‘Self Portrait’. In his work, drums often carry a metaphorical association with the eardrum and the act of listening. In Wax Drum 1988, another work in this exhibition, a pair of scissors is plunged into the skin of a drum, evoking a violent stabbing of the eardrum, a wound that would result in deafness.

The gesture of straining to hear by the round-bottomed Listening Figure 1991, with its ear pressed to the wall, presents a poignant portrait of the figure’s desire to hear and move being simultaneously frustrated by its form. This is made more vivid by the figure’s webbed-over eyes. ‘It’s always been said that statues are blind’, Muñoz once commented. ‘They are looking inwards, and that looking inwards automatically excludes the receiver, the person in front.’