Ron Mueck, a virtuoso of hyperrealistic sculpture, has earned international recognition, with previous major exhibitions in London, Venice, Washington, and Berlin. Over the past decade, the Australian-born, London-based artist has created a personal, distinctive body of works whose startling impact have given a fresh impulse to contemporary sculpture.
Mueck's intensely realistic sculptures of friends and relatives isolated from their normal context, and often larger or smaller than life-size, evoke a range of human conditions, such as vulnerability, and emotional responses, such as pity. Of his decision to manipulate scale—some subjects are miniaturized, while others are magnified into monumental portraits—the artist has commented, "I change the scale intuitively, really—avoiding life-size because it's ordinary. There's no math involved; I usually do a sketch on paper and if it looks good to me, then I use that scale for the actual piece. The shift in scale draws you in and in some ways engages you at a different level."
As a child Mueck often made toys, and as a young man he created puppets for children's television programs, including Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. To create his works, the artist uses the traditional sculptural process of molding and casting, but he incorporates contemporary materials. He first makes a mold from clay and then casts it in silicone, touching up and adding color and props as he progresses. In a sense, his sculpture extends the idea of photo-based art, which usually manifests itself in the form of paintings. The Modern's curator, Andrea Karnes, comments, "Mueck's art offers us a glimpse of something 'real,' but not life-size, and because his subjects are isolated, we focus in on them in a new way. Through his creative process, the artist makes a poignant and psychologically charged portrait. His work is powerful; its strange believability compels us to look closely."
Ron Mueck's Untitled (Seated Woman), 1999, in the Modern's permanent collection, became a community favorite when it was first put on exhibit for the opening of the Modern's new building in 2002. Since that time, the Museum has continued to receive numerous comments, e-mail messages, and inquiries from visitors about this much-loved work of art. Thirteen works will be on view in the special exhibition, including Untitled (Seated Woman), 1999; the critically acclaimed Dead Dad, 1996–97, a scrupulously rendered, three-foot-long sculpture of the artist's father lying naked on the floor; Wild Man, 2005, a nine-foot sculpture of a bearded man clutching the stool he is seated on; and Baby, 2000, a ten-inch-long newborn infant. A thirty-minute video showing the artist at work will also be part of the exhibition, along with examples of his working materials and casts.
Born in Australia in 1958, Ron Mueck began his career making puppets for children's television programs. After a sojourn in Los Angeles in 1986, he settled down in London, where he again worked in special effects for television and then for cinema. In 1990 he set up his own business, manufacturing models for the European advertising industry. Entirely devoted to his artistic vocation since 1996, Mueck has participated in a number of collective shows. After being included in the influential exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection in 1997, he was invited in 2000 by the London National Gallery to be Associate Artist for two years, leading to an exhibition that travelled from London to Sydney and Harlem. The immense sculpture Boy was presented at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington gave Mueck a solo show in 2002, as did the Nationalgalerie in Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, in 2003.