Juan Muñoz Arab 1995

Juan Muñoz
Arab 1995
Hort Family Collection, New York © The estate of Juan Muñoz

In 1995 Muñoz was artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He was particularly attracted to a small drawing, Seated Scribe (c.1479–80) made by the Venetian artist Gentile Bellini during his time at the court of Sultan Mehmet II in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The drawing, which combines Renaissance humanism with the delicacy of a Persian miniature, depicts a young man in a robe and white turban holding his pen and gazing at the blank page in front of him. Muñoz’s Arab 1995 closely resembles this figure, and recreates its thoughtful intensity, but rather than a page, it stares into empty space. The Mouth Drawings 1995 were made during the same residency and exhibited alongside Arab, suggesting a connection between these disembodied voices, the contemplative silence of the scribe and the moment of imaginative creation.

In Stuttering Piece 1993, Muñoz gives voice to his characters, with a recorded dialogue between the two figures. The conversation has the circular, absurd quality of a phrase from a Samuel Beckett play. Muñoz would sometimes jot down fragments of banal chatter that he overheard in bars and cafés, and he attributed this short exchange to those notes.