Conversation Piece V (Three Figures)

Conversation Piece V (Three Figures), 2001
Juan Muñoz (1953–2001)

The cast bronze Conversation Piece V (Three Figures) (2001) by the Spanish artist Juan Muñoz depicts a group of three female figures, each of whose legs have been replaced by a large, ball-like shape. The intention of the base in the relationship of the figures is ambiguous: it may prevent the figures from moving or it may allow them to roll, glide, or wriggle towards one another.

Two of the women face each other and appear to be in conversation, one figure with her arms bent away from her body at a ninety-degree angle towards the other, head tilted to the side, while the other leans pointedly forward with her arms behind her back. The third woman looks over her shoulder at the two from a distance, possibly fleeing the scene or being excluded from the conversation. Their gestures and positioning contribute to the sense that we are eavesdropping on a drama that is unfolding between them. As visitors step towards them, they are transported into the scene but may also be overcome by a sense of unease and discomfort upon encountering the women’s blank expressions, which discourage the viewer from further psychological readings.

Muñoz felt that his use of the human figure heightened the psychological strain and narrative potential of his work. This element of estrangement in his work perhaps comes from the heightened surveillance in Spain under Francisco Franco during his formative years. But Conversation Piece V does not alienate as much as it inspires the viewer to create his or her own back-story. The figures’ lack of facial expression opens the way for numerous interpretations of possible emotions, such as excitement, joy, fear, anger, guilt, or secretiveness.

Juan Muñoz (1953–2001)
Conversation Piece V (Three Figures), 2001
Bronze
Foundation purchase, gift of Barbro and Bernard A. Osher
2005.125a–c

Emma Acker, Assistant Curator of American Art, provide her perspective on Juan Muñoz’s Conversation Piece V (Three Figures).

 
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