Australian-born, North London-based artist Ron Mueck has been called a “hyper-realist” for his startlingly lifelike sculptural depictions of the human body.
Previously a professional puppeteer and model-maker for TV and film (he’s the voice of “Ludo” in Labyrinth, which is just one among many of his totally amazing accomplishments), Mueck’s work displays an astonishing technical mastery of his materials as well as a subtle, affecting appreciation for the mundane terrors and elations of everyday life, emphasized by his surreal use of scale.
Mueck’s latest exhibition, at Paris’s Fondation Cartier, opened this Monday. It’s not only a great introduction to his work in a fantastic, Jean Nouvel-designed setting (and a rare one – Mueck’s exhibition schedule is hardly packed), it also features three new sculptures from the artist. This is no small thing – Mueck’s painstaking attention to detail means that works can take months, even years to realize. Which is especially apparent in the specially-commissioned film that accompanies the exhibition, entitled Still Life: Ron Mueck at Work and directed and shot by Mueck’s friend Gautier Leblonde over two years. The film is a subtle, fly-on-the-wall affair, in which Mueck barely speaks at all (aside from a well-timed expletive when he messes up the varnish on an eyeball), giving a powerful sense of the artist’s meticulous practice and the many hours of work that go into each piece.
Works featured in the exhibition include well-known classics, such as Man in a Boat (2002), Mask II (2001-2) and Woman With Sticks (2008) as well as the three new offerings: the monumental Couple Under An Umbrella; the ambiguous, small-sized Young Couple and the affecting Woman With Shopping Bags (all 2013). One of the major highlights of the exhibition, however is the opposition of Drift (2009), a Sexy Beast–style character lying on a lilo, his wiry arms splayed horizontally like a rendering of Christ, with Youth (2009), a young man inspecting a stigmata-like wound on his abdomen. Together, these are a good summation of what Mueck’s work does at best: both figures are tawdry and holy, ordinary and transcendental, fake yet unsettlingly lifelike.