Cartier Exhibit Exposes Humongous Humans

Paris -- An elderly couple in their bathing suits under an umbrella, his head resting in her lap -- nothing could seem more trivial. Apart from one anomaly: sculptor Ron Mueck has made them twice the size of normal beach goers.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are becoming more and more interested in these amazing sculptures.

Australian-born Mueck is fond of extravagant proportions and takes us like Gulliver, from Lilliput to Brobdingnag, from the land of dwarfs to the land of giants. The Fondation Cartier exhibition is the second devoted to the sculptor -- remarkable considering his small output: In 17 years, he has produced no more than 40 works.

Nine are on view in Paris, three of them are new.

Unlike the late Duane Hanson, another hyperrealist sculptor, Mueck is no social critic.
While Hanson’s fat women with shopping bags and tourists with baseball caps, cameras and sandals are caricatures of middle America, Mueck’s over and undersized creatures remain mysterious.

Like dummies in a shop window, they have no individuality.

The naked woman carrying a huge bundle of sticks may be a witch preparing an auto-da-fe for Hansel and Gretel. Or not.

In some cases, the catalog suggests a religious subtext. The swimmer on an air mattress, shown above, who extends his arms, we’re told, may have been inspired by the Crucifixion, the young man who examines a wound below his chest evokes Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of St. Thomas.” Not everybody will buy that.

Bird Flu
Mueck rarely creates anything other than human figures. The giant plucked chicken hanging on a hook, his comment on an avian flu epidemic, is an exception. It just may be the best work in the show.

Since his breakthrough with a five-meter-high “Boy” at the 2001 Venice Biennale, Mueck is highly sought after on the international art circuit.

Mueck's early career was as a model maker and puppeteer for children's television and films, notably the film Labyrinth for which he also contributed the voice of Ludo, and the Jim Henson series The Storyteller.

Mueck moved on to establish his own company in London, making photo-realistic props and animatronics for the advertising industry. Although highly detailed, these props were usually designed to be photographed from one specific angle hiding the mess of construction seen from the other side. Mueck increasingly wanted to produce realistic sculptures which looked perfect from all angles.

In 1996 Mueck transitioned to fine art, collaborating with his mother-in-law, Paula Rego, to produce small figures as part of a tableau she was showing at the Hayward Gallery. Rego introduced him to Charles Saatchi who was immediately impressed and started to collect and commission work. This led to the piece which made Mueck's name, Dead Dad, being included in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy the following year. Dead Dad is a silicone and mixed media sculpture of the corpse of Mueck's father reduced to about two thirds of its natural scale. It is the only work of Mueck's that uses his own hair for the finished product.

Mueck's sculptures faithfully reproduce the minute detail of the human body, but play with scale to produce disconcertingly jarring visual images. His five metre high sculpture Boy 1999 was a feature in the Millennium Dome and later exhibited in the Venice Biennale. Today it sits as the centerpiece in the foyer off the Danish Contemporary Art Museum ARoS in Aarhus.