Ron Mueck

Dead Dad . 1996—1997

+ Hauser & Wirth

Ron Mueck spent 20 years in Australian and British television and advertising, where he was already making the mannequins that he later adapted to sculptural purposes. Mueck took part in the exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy in 1997 with mixed media sculpture Dead Dad (1996–7; London, Saatchi Gal.), an unsettling illusionistic rendition of his own deceased father, half life-size.
Made from memory, the sculpture became as much the focus for a strong emotional involvement as it was a mere object treated with Mueck's rigorous eye for detail. As the artist explained, the miniaturised representation proved a more emotionally involving depiction of death by compelling the beholder to ‘cradle' the corpse visually. Mueck sculpts in clay, makes a plaster mould around it and finally replaces the clay with a mixture of fibreglass, silicone and resin; the technical skill involved has often been foregrounded by critics to the detriment of its content. Such psychological density was evident in Ghost (h. 2.02 m, 1998; London, Tate), a gigantic representation of an awkward teenage girl wearing a bathing suit and averting her gaze from the viewer. Such plays on scale are integral to the powerful effects of Mueck's figures. A colossal figure commissioned for the Millenium Dome in London in 2000 reiterated a similar issue. Tackling traditional themes such as self-portraiture or the age-old question of verisimilitude in art, Mueck applies skills more usually associated with theatrical or cinematic special effects, to engender a personal understanding of the art object.

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