Room 1

Juan Muñoz If Only She Knew 1984

Juan Muñoz
If Only She Knew 1984
Private collection, New York © The estate of Juan Muñoz
Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Muñoz associated his welded iron balconies with everyday urban architecture, and by mounting them on the wall, created a street-like environment within the gallery. In Spain, the balcony is a vantage point to look down onto the street, but also a space in which to be seen. Muñoz encouraged viewers to gaze upwards, and to imagine themselves in the balcony, ‘at the intersection between watching the walking that goes on underneath and walking while watching what goes on up above’.

As a student, Muñoz had made a close study of Minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre. His own work moved away from abstraction, but like the Minimalists he continued to explore the dynamic relationship between the viewer, the object and the surrounding space. These early sculptures based on architectural features transform our sense of the room around them, creating an almost theatrical space in which we become aware of ourselves as participants as much as viewers.

Muñoz’s early balconies and staircases featured prominently in his first solo exhibition, which also included If Only She Knew 1984, an iron house-like structure raised on skinny supports and containing a single carved stone female figure surrounded by several wooden male figures seemingly trapped under a peaked roof.