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Nearly all of our time in France is spent on working long and exhaustive days. When I get a chance to actually take advantage of Paris and what it has to offer, ( other than dining at restaurants because lets face it, we all have to eat ) I consider myself very lucky.

Over dinner one night, my friends were all talking about a recent exhibition ( Sept. – Oct. 2013 ) at the Fondation Cartier by a sculptor named ‘Ron Mueck’. When I saw the catalogue of his work I was fascinated and wanted to see more. It wasn’t until my very last afternoon before leaving back to Vancouver that I actually had a couple of hours to spare. So off I went.

Well, I didn’t get to see anything much to my chagrin!  I drove to within a kilometer from the gallery when a ‘manifestation’ or in simple English, ‘Demonstration’ was blocking any possibility of getting through. I sat for 30 minutes steaming as this protest got louder and more violent.

Protests are almost a daily occurrence in the City of Enlightenment

Protests are almost a daily occurrence in the City of Enlightenment

There was no parking, or I would have walked. Frankly I can’t even remember what it was about as the French protest about everything all the time. I finally gave up and went back home. In any event, I hope to catch his fellows work again sometime. But in the meanwhile, I’ve posted all I could find on Ron, and hope you enjoy the images and catch the meaning in his work. It goes much deeper than simple hyper-realism. It’s a statement of real life and not the glamorized images we see on a daily basis. He’s hailed as a genius by many critics and scholars.

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The naked wild man is the sculpture, not the boy!

Ron Mueck was born in Australia to German parents. 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 that looked perfect from all angles.

Ron Mueck's self portrait. Easter Island Head. Interesting in that that's what I call myself when someone's cut my hair too short.

Ron Mueck’s self portrait. ‘Easter Island Head’. This is interesting in that that’s what I call myself when someone’s cut my hair too short.

n 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 that 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.

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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.

In 1999 Mueck was appointed as Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London. During this two-year post he created the works ‘Mother and Child’, ‘Pregnant Woman’, ‘Man in a Boat’, and ‘Swadled Baby’.

Man in a Boat

Man in a Boat

In 2002 his sculpture ‘Pregnant Woman’ was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia for A$800,000.

'Prenant Woman' created in 2002, sold to the National Gallery of Australia for $800,000

‘Prenant Woman’ created in 2002, sold to the National Gallery of Australia for $800,000

Woman with Baby. The expression on the woman's face is one of fatigue and hopelessness, not joy of Motherhood that is so often portrayed in our society. Due to clothing, lack of make-up and hair, it's poverty that keeps her 'hopeless' even with her child staring up in hope of 'love'.

Woman with Baby. This statement of ‘Motherhood’ is quite different than the cheerful mother and child images that we’re normally bombarded with by the media. Her expression of hopelessness, combined with her careless appearance is a reflection of her sad impoverished lifestyle and her obvious depression of the state of her circumstances. The baby searches his mother’s face for any sign of recognition or love. A unique portrayal of ‘motherhood’ expressing the fact that in the real world not all mother’s are in a constant state of ecstasy.

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Ron Mueck’s first exhibition in Japan opened on 26 April 2009 at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. It ran until 8 August and featured a collection of works displayed over six spaces in the gallery. Among them were Mueck’s latest work, “A Girl”. The exhibition also included two short films about the artist, covering both his artistic background and his production techniques.

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The lifelike resemblance is not all Ron is trying to achieve. These are statements he’s making about the ravages and paranoia of ‘old age’. If people carry on how ‘creepy’ his work is, then they miss the point. But then one could argue that is the point. Because old age can become very creepy as is illustrated by these two old women.

An exhibition was held at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, from 12 December 2007 through 30 March 2008. “Ron Mueck at The Andy Warhol Museum” featured seven of the artist’s realistic human sculptures, including: In Bed; A Girl; Wild Man; Spooning Couple; Man in a Boat; Mask II; and Mask III.

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'In Bed' by Ron Mueck.

‘In Bed’ by Ron Mueck.

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'Wild Man' by Ron Mueck

‘Wild Man’ by Ron Mueck

A major exhibition of his work was shown as part of the Edinburgh Festival at the Royal Scottish Academy Building until 1 October 2006. A solo exhibition of nine works by Ron Mueck was presented at the Brooklyn Museum from 3 November 2006 through 4 February 2007.

An exhibit of his work was also on view at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa from 2 March to 6 May 2007, organized by the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris), in collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada, the Brooklyn Museum and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, showed an exhibition of thirteen of Mueck’s pieces from 24 June 2007, through 21 October 2007. The works in the show include Untitled (Seated Woman) (1999), Dead Dad (1996–97), In Bed (2005), Untitled (Big Man) (2000), Two Women (2005), Crouching Boy in Mirror (1999–2000), Spooning Couple (2005), Mask II (2001–2002), Mask III (2005), Wild Man (2005), and A Girl (2006).[6]

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A major retrospective of Mueck’s work was held in his home town of Melbourne, Australia, in April 2010, at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Christchurch Art Gallery hosted a touring version of the National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition from 2 October 2010 to 23 January 2011. The antique College of San Ildefonso Mexico 2011. Mueck participated in the group show Lifelike in 2012 which originated at the Walker Art Center.

To see larger images of Ron Mueck’s work click here.

Thanks for reading. Please send me comments on anything you’ve seen here today. I love feedback!

Mark

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