In these two early works by the artist, we find both the interests of artistic investigation that were such a fixture of the early eighties—the return to figuration, the representation of human existence through the domestic sphere—and certain elements and intentions that would be fundamental to Juan Muñoz’s later work. This includes the tension between absence and presence or the idea of an artwork as the construction of an intellectual inquiry. Astrolabio para el norte de la tormenta is a stylised dome with no walls, open and exposed to the exterior, showing its ribs and the spiral staircase within. The bare architectural structure hangs from the ceiling, not by its apex but from one side, so that it tends to rotate around itself. On the lower part, a half-open switchblade—an element he would use again in other works—seems to act both as a stabilising counterweight and a magnetic needle searching for the “north of the storm” mentioned in the title. In the second piece, Para el norte de la tormenta, which belongs to the same group of iron works, a pedestal supports a square frame with a winch hanging from it. A jointed metal strip encircles the winch. If we were to turn the handle, the circular metal strip would rotate continuously, producing sound. Reminiscent of a peculiar binnacle as well as a closed well of sorts, the piece is a strange combination of dense motionlessness and the sense of imminent action. Although the human figure does not appear in either of the sculptures, it is clearly present—as in the typical series of balconies and banisters that Muñoz later did—in the anthropomorphic (the staircase, the blade, the handle: all refer to the body) and cultural references: the astrolabe as a mental image of the world, the idea of reading implicit in the search for north.
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