If one somehow melded the aesthetic of a Muppets puppeteer with, say, the hyperrealistic creations of Pop-Art pioneer Duane Hanson, the result might resemble Ron Mueck’s astonishing sculptures. Now on view at the Fondation Cartier in Paris through September 29, 2013, Mueck’s lifelike works are unsettling in their meticulous attention to detail, while often managing to feel humorous and haunting at once. Varying in scale from the gargantuan to the pint-sized, the reclusive Australian artist’s sculptures of men, women and children keep the viewer both enthralled and off-balance, unsure of what to expect around the next corner of the gallery or museum space.
The son of a German toymaker, Mueck began his career as a model maker and puppeteer (working, for example, on Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film, Labyrinth), and transitioned into fine art in the late 1990s. Though his work retains some of the playfulness you would expect of a puppeteer, there is a often a dark edge to his silicon renderings that can catch viewers off-guard. Visitors at a Mueck exhibition can often be seen giggling nervously in the face of an especially intense work, or lost in deep contemplation before his expertly crafted terrains of manufactured skin, hair, eyes and teeth.
James Joyce, explaining his obsession with chronicling the inhabitants and the landscape of his native Dublin, once noted that “in the particular is contained the universal.” The resonance of Mueck’s work lies in his ability to capture a moment, three dimensionally, and in his masterful manipulation of scale to elevate the minutiae of the everyday to the monumental — and the existential.