Ron Mueck

Posted: December 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: no blah blah: one artist | Tags: , | No Comments »

1958: Born in Melbourne, Australia

His parents were both toymakers: his father carved from wood and his mother made rag dolls.
Mueck spent much of his childhood modeling playthings. He had no formal art training and he never attended art school. He recalls: I spent my whole childhood alone in a room making stuff. […] I’m still mainly doing that….I try to put the ego into the work.
Eventually the family moved to Great Britain when he was a small boy.

His early career was as a model maker and puppeteer for children’s television, including The Muppets and Sesame Street. He also worked for the movie industry, notably Labyrinth, a fantasy film released in 1986 directed by Jim Henson (creator of The Muppet Show) and featuring David Bowie.

Mueck had 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.

At 37, though, Ron Mueck walked away from his lucrative career as a model maker, frustrated by the constrictions of the job: Everything I was doing was geared towards that final flat image, the piece of print. […] Everything was predetermined. I was always telling someone else’s story. I wanted to make something that a photograph wouldn’t do justice to.
He wanted to produce realistic sculptures, which looked perfect from all angles.


Boy (foot detail), 1999

Mueck’s eventual entry into the contemporary art world was almost accidental. His stepmother is artist Paula Rego. On a family holiday in America, Rego watched, mesmerized, as Mueck created a giant sand sculpture of a dragon for his two young daughters. Later, when she was working on a series of drawings for a group show in a London gallery, she asked him to create a model of Pinocchio. He did a 33-inch-tall (83cm), ultra-realist Pinocchio in silicone.

Paula Rego showed it to famous publicist Charles Saatchi who was impressed and started to collect Mueck’s work. He put Dead Dad in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy in 1997. Dead Dad is a silicone and mixed media sculpture of the naked corpse of Mueck’s father reduced to about two thirds of its natural scale. It is said to be the only work that uses Mueck’s own hair for the finished product.

Dead Dad, 1996

Then he gained mass appeal with his huge Boy, a 16 feet high (5m) sculpture which was displayed at the Millennium Dome and at the Venice Biennale in 2001. It shows a crouching boy, who seems to be scared.

Boy, 1999

Ron Mueck has a profound knowledge of anatomy, it allows him to create sculptures that faithfully reproduce human body but play with scale to produce disconcertingly images. He elaborates details to such a point that it causes powerful reactions in the visitor. When larger-than-life-size figures seem threatening, as In Bed, smaller-than-life-size creations such as Spooning Couple evoke confidence and humor.

His sculptures are made of fibreglass and silicone. In Mask II (Mueck’s face on its side) you can see teeth, gums and even a little faux saliva. Every hair, eyebrow or eyelash is fixed in a specifically hole. All the hairs are sanded and painted. The lashes are hand-tapered to a point with a scalpel. He cooks up a resin with a never-seen-the-sun Caucasian flesh color and he delicately paints every blue vein afterwards.

It looks so life-like that visitors want to touch the works. People often quote Madame Tussaud’s famous wax museum or hyper-realistic sculptures of Duane Hanson.

A Girl being installed at the Brooklyn Museum, 2007