Matt Johnson’s ‘Sleeping Figure’ provokes oversized questions and commentary near Marfa

Installation view of ‘Sleeping Figure’, commissioned by Desert X 2023. Image courtesy of the artist.

One of the most talked about sculptures at Desert X 2023 — Sleeping Figure, by Matt Johnson ’00 (Sculpture BFA) — can now be found as a permanent installation near arts-destination Marfa in West Texas.

A site-specific biennial held in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, Desert X 2023 featured 12 thought provoking installations that explored social and environmental themes. Johnson’s work, Sleeping Figure, is a massive piece featuring 12 shipping containers belonging to the globalized movement of goods and trade. Conceived at the time when a Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated, German-managed, Panamanian-flagged and Indian- manned container behemoth found itself for six days under Egyptian jurisdiction while blocking the Suez Canal, Johnson’s figure speaks to the crumples and breaks of a supply chain economy in distress.

Sleeping Figure was donated to Marfa Invitational, a foundation that organizes an annual art fair. The work can now be found on five acres outside of Marfa, joining six other installations on the site as the organization works to complete a sculpture park.

Watch Matt talk about Sleeping Figure in the video below.