Ever since his poignant sculpture of his dead father’s small, naked, vulnerable body (Dead Dad 1996-7) caused such awe and admiration in the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1997, Ron Mueck’s work has come to epitomise a renewed interest among artists in a hyper-realistic sculptural representation of the human body. His work concentrates almost exclusively on the human figure, tracing our passage through life from birth to death. All his sculptures are made with an obsessive attention to realism, right down to the pores in the skin and the hair on the body.
Mueck’s figures are initially modelled in clay and then cast in fibre-glass or silicone, with individual details such as hair or fingernails applied afterwards. Often naked and suspended in states of self-consciousness, introspection or deep contemplation, his figures present both emotional and physical states of exposure. As viewers we experience a level of unease that is borne of a voyeuristic awkwardness, as though we have invaded some kind of personal space.
In addition to six important recent sculptures the Fondation Cartier show includes three produced especially for this event. A new film recording their creation has been made for the occasion by Gautier Deblonde. Revealing the reclusive artist at work further emphasizes the sensitivity and power of Ron Mueck’s sculpture and highlights its particular resonance for our time.
Ron Mueck was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1958, but has lived in London for over 20 years now. He honed his extraordinary skills in making life-like figures during several years in film and television. He worked on the Muppets and was responsible for the special effects in David Bowie’s film Labyrinth.
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