By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Rio de Janeiro is currently hosting the hyper-realist sculptures of Australian Ron Mueck. The exhibition, which includes nine photo-realistic sculptures and a documentary offering a rare glimpse of the reclusive artist at work, will continue through the month of May until June 1st.

Ron Mueck Mask II, MAM, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News, Brazil
Ron Mueck’s ‘Mask II’ is an oversized representation of Mueck’s head on its side as he lays sleeping, photo by Rae Allen/Flickr Creative Commons License.

This traveling exhibition begin at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, in Paris, in April 2013 and moved next to the Fundación Proa, in Buenos Aires. It then opened at Rio’s MAM on March 20th.

The nine photo-realist sculptures on display are created by Mueck with fiberglass, resin, silicone, and acrylic fiber. Mueck is well known for the extraordinarily lifelike details he creates in his sculptures of humans. The sizes of his pieces are also critical as Mueck plays will scale, making bigger things small and additionally often capturing smaller moments and reproducing them at superhuman sizes.

Currently based in London, Mueck was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1958. He began his career working as puppeteer and model-maker. For fifteen years he honed those skills as he produced special effects for children’s television programs. He then moved into special effects for films including work on 1986’s fantasy epic, “Labyrinth.”

Following that Mueck founded his own company to produce models for advertisement photographs. He then turned to fine art and sculpture, feeling that photography took away from the physical presence of the original works. Mueck’s own image appears in the current exhibition through his work Mask II. Created in 2001-2002, the work is a oversized representation of Mueck’s head on its side as he lays sleeping.

In his work, Woman with sticks (2008), Mueck makes larger issues small. He 180cm-tall model of naked woman is depicted bending back due to the burden of the weight of the huge bundle of willow sticks she is attempting to carry. In Drift, Mueck depicts a man in swim trunks and sunglasses floating on his back, arms outstretched. Created at 2/3-scale, the figure of the man is on an inflatable raft drifting in place where it is hung on the wall of the gallery.

Ron Mueck, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Exhibition attendees looking at Mueck’s ‘Drift’, photo by Fernando de Sousa/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Mueck’s Youth(2009) is a 65cm tall model of a young black man lifting up his shirt to examine a bloody wound on his abdomen. In the Mueck work Still Life a non-human figured is represented as a giant plucked chicken hangs upside by its feet from the ceiling.

Three more of the nine pieces on display were created especially for the traveling exhibition. One of those works, Couple Under An Umbrella (2013), depicts a larger-than-life elderly couple in their bathing suits at rest under an equally oversized umbrella.

“They seem to be frozen moments of life, each capturing the relationship between two human beings,” the Fondation Cartier wrote of the sculptures. “The nature of their connection to each other is revealed by their actions, small, ordinary, yet intriguing. The precision of their gestures, the true to life rendering of their flesh, the suggestion of suppleness in their skin makes them seem completely real.”

Additionally during the exhibition, a documentary film showing the usually private Mueck at work will screen. Shot by friend and colleague of Muek, photographer Gautier Deblonde, the documentary captures two years of Mueck at work in his studio.

“What struck me was how quickly they come alive,” Deblonde told The Independent when explaining his experience while filming Mueck sculpt. “The first part is the clay, and this is almost like the negative of his work: all the details you need to have a human body alive.”

What: Ron Mueck Exhibition
When: March 20th through June 1st. Open Tuesdays through Fridays 12PM – 6PM, Sundays and holidays 11AM – 6PM.
Where: Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM) Av. Infante Dom Henrique 85, Parque do Flamengo
Entrance: R$7-R$14 Available Online here.


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