Juan Muñoz Backs on Bronze, 1990

Juan Muñoz
Backs on Bronze 1990
Private collection © The estate of Juan Muñoz
Photo: Dexter Hodges

Between 1989 and 1991, Muñoz’s interest in the figure led him to make a series of ballerinas. Careful not to fall into realism, he gave them a bulbous base in place of their legs so that, paradoxically, they are incapable of the supple movements that define a ballerina. Muñoz described the figures as being ‘about endlessly moving, but always finding herself in the same space’. He was also conscious of the art-historical associations between ballerinas and the paintings of the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas.

The hemispherical bases of the ballerinas are echoed in the Backs on Bronze 1990, a similarly equivocal approach to the potential of human mobility. Extending across each bronze piece is the ridge of a spinal column. Together, the group suggests a link between the ‘load-bearing’ role of the backbone, which allows the body to stand upright, and the related role of the sculptural base. They are shown here alongside Muñoz’s drawings of backs, one set of which depicts the artist’s own back. If these are taken as portraits, they are characteristically elusive: the highly expressive depiction of a figure turned away from us, whose stance is an implicit refusal to communicate or reveal anything about itself.