Ron Mueck's hyperreal giants

Ron Mueck is my favorite contemporary sculptor. His massive, hyperreal figures are obsessively detailed, down to every pore and wrinkle. A new exhibition of Mueck's work opens today at Australia's National Gallery of Victoria International. From the museum:
 Ronmueck Images Artworks Exhi011031 Often naked and suspended in states of self-consciousness, introspection or deep contemplation, his figures present both emotional and physical states of exposure. As viewers we experience a level of unease that is borne of a voyeuristic awkwardness, as though we have invaded some kind of personal space. However, we also identify with the human condition these poignant moments express. Astounding in their apparent realism and compelling in their ability to invite interaction Ron Mueck's works have earned him a singular place as the creator of some of the most evocative sculptures of our time.
Ron Mueck image gallery at LIFE


  1. One of the best things about these photos of Mueck’s work is seeing how people interact with them.

  2. Great sculpture! I’d love to see him do a pirate installation somewhere in an outdoor space to see the reaction of the general public,……but I have to wonder… Why is Joaquin Phoenix sitting in that chair?

    1. “Why is Joaquin Phoenix sitting in that chair?”

      That made me laugh longer than it probably should have.

  3. It seems telling that non of the nude figures are female. I wonder if Ron thinks a female nude is unavoidably sexual, and worries this would interfere with the clinical feeling his scuptures have. Female nudes are often viewed almost as objects rather than people, whereas Ron’s sculptures are objects which convince you they are people. We’re meant to feel awkward that we’re looking at someone who is self-conciously naked, and obviously if you’re objectifying a female nude you won’t experience that awkwardness.

    Whether it’s Ron’s view that female nudity is sexual, or he’s just reacting to a percieved viewpoint of his audience, it seems a shame he’s not willing to try to show female nudity in the same powerful way he’s displayed male nudity.

    Or I might be imaginging things. Either way it’s really cool. I like the baby most.

    1. @3: The baby is a girl, as the title is “A Girl.” I don’t think that actually defeats your theory though, since most people don’t tend to view babies, male or female, as sexual … or specifically not sexual, since they’re just babies.

      I think you’re projecting too much on this. There’s really no evidence for your sentiments except by passive exclusion — which may have an agenda, or may be the way things fall. If I ever draw figures, I tend to draw women more than men, if only because I know women better and because I’m simply more comfortable, skill-wise.

      I don’t look at any of his works and think, “What a bummer he doesn’t do any of women.” The whole point of having millions of artists is that none of them have to be inclusive. I don’t walk up to a still-life specialist and ask why he refuses to do portraits.

    2. He’s actually done several female nudes. The first that comes to mind is the Birth scene, complete with newborn and umbilical cord.

    3. On the alternate side of a properly functioning theory would be the fact that male nudes are the exception which begs the question what is “not” traditionally artful about naked men. What makes “male nudes” require contemporary art to merge instead? Furthermore there are many more contributing factors besides the sexualizing male gaze that would need to be included with the “gaze” theory. The “gaze” is the low hanging fruit these days.

    4. you apparently have not seen his nude pregnant woman statue…there are others as well…??…

    1. Since the artist is male, maybe he was indeed more inclined exploring a very intimate, vulnerable view of maleness. But I don’t perceive it as a negative or a purposeful omission of femaleness. Artists don’t always reflect others’ reality in their work: It’s often a portrayal of their own, personal experiences and feelings.

      While the art world could use more female artists, there is no shortage of realistic, ‘powerfully honest’ female representation in fine arts (pop media is a totally different story). If anything, I feel it’s getting to be a bit of a gimmick, but maybe I’m just too cynical of fine art in general.

      Or maybe I’m just glad to see a bit more naked, demure testosterone (with hair too!!) in the balance. I am but a gal ;)

  4. I had the unfortunate experience of viewing these sculptures in the first trimester of my pregnancy. I had offered to give my in-laws a tour of Pittsburgh (husband was at work) and they didn’t yet know about the pregnancy. We chose the Warhol Museum as a stop on the tour, and Mueck’s sculptures were on display. Talk about an emotional response! Viewing these photos brings back that same flood of nerves, fear, confusion and super-intense nausea. Not sure I’ll ever be able to consider myself a “fan” after that.

  5. The Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth had an exhibition of these sculptures a while back and I had a chance to go see them, they are incredible in person. My personal favorite is the two old ladies, the detail in their clothing and faces is amazing, it really is like two miniature people standing there. I also like the giant woman in bed, but I have always wondered if there is anything under the sheets or is it just a framework.

    1. I meant to mention it, but for 2 seconds, I wasn’t sure if the sculpture was the visitor or the two old ladies! Really amazing.

  6. Muick has done a giant naked pregnant woman and also a woman soon after birth with the umbilical cord still extending from her vagina, so I dont think he has qualms about the naked female form.

    also worth mentioning is a very similar artist is Sam Jinks.
    I saw his sculptures in an old church in sydney, they where very effective.

  7. I saw that sculpture in the first picture in Washington DC this summer. The level of detail in the texture of the skin, the eyes, and everything really, was insane. And this might not be obvious from that photo, but it’s HUGE. Really worth seeing in person.

  8. I don’t know of too much contemporary art that’s more exhilarating, and yet more unnerving, than Ron Meuck’s. (With the possible, qualified exception of Serra’s torqued ellipses and other crazy steel behemoths, which I still see every chance I get.) I can’t really say I’m a fan of Mueck’s — that would be too simplistic, I think. But what I appreciate about his stuff is that it has that rare ability to disconcert right on the heels of making one laugh. Sort of like the Simpsons episode, “Homer Cubed,” where our hero gets pulled through a wall into the freaky and disquieting “third dimension,” and immediately makes the deathless observation, “I’m so bulgy. My stomach sticks way out in front and my” — peering around at his no-longer two-dimensional butt — “aaahh!!” Just like that.

  9. These are amazing! I’ve been seeing these sculptures on the internet for a while and I’ve always questioned if they were real or Photoshopped. Even now I’m a little skeptical.

    1. Don’t be, they look just like real people, except big. The weird thing about them is that the skin is not soft or pliable at all, it’s fiberglass.

  10. Remember the fit then-mayor Rudy Giuliani threw over the “Sensation” show at the Brooklyn Museum, particularly Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary”? Mueck’s “Mask”, the 18th slide in that slideshow, was also part of that exhibition. As you can see, it’s a big, angry face, and it looks a little like Giuliani. The museum set it up directly opposite Ofili’s “Virgin Mary”, glaring balefully at it.

  11. Mueck used to work for the Henson Creature Shop as a sculptor, designer and performer. He was responsible for sculpting a lot of the characters in the Storyteller series and some of the characters in Labyrinth. He’s capable of a wide range of visual styles from hyper-realistic to bizarrely grotesque and flat-out cartoon. These works are really remarkable for a number of reasons including the short life they will have because of the materials he has chosen to use. And the piece entitled “Mask” is actually his own face.

  12. the giant bald guy in the corner was at the Hisrchhorn in DC for a while… it’s seriously the creepiest sculpture i’ve ever seen in person.

  13. Ron is the best sculpture of humans i have ever seen,a true master,i am overwhelmed,and humbled. r tilden novice sculpture.

  14. for the person who posted about his not having female nudes….he does have quite a few!

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