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HAPPENINGText: Valérie Douniaux

This exhibition, which is already a large success, is the second one by Australian born Ron Mueck at Parisian Fondation Cartier Pour L’art Contemporain, after the artist’s 2005 spectacular show in the same place.

In addition to six recent sculptures, the show includes three other pieces especially produced for the occasion. A 45 minutes film by Gautier Deblonde follows the creating process of these works, right in the heart of the artist’s London studio.

Ron Mueck began his career as a creative director and puppet creator for an Australian children’s television program and for the cinema. He then opened his own company in London, concentrating on photo-realistic props and animatronics. This led him to the creation of silicone and fiberglass realistic sculptures, so meticulously detailed that they become disturbingly alive. The figures seem so real that, at first glance, they would almost be indistinguishable from an actual person, except for their surprising scale. Ron Mueck’s creatures are always smaller or bigger than life, a choice which accentuates the feeling of strangeness one feels when confronted to them.

Ron Mueck Exhibition
Couple under an umbrella, Ron Mueck, 2013 © Thomas Salva / Lumento for the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain

The first work of the exhibition is a giant middle-age couple in swimming-suits, seated on the ground as on a beach, under a parasol, the man resting his head on the woman’s knees. Their tired faces and bodies tell us about a life that may not have always been easy and, despite their lack of eye-contact, there still seem to be some closeness between the two characters, the man clutching the woman’s arm with his hand and the woman looking at him in a both indifferent and protecting way.

Woman with Sticks, Ron Mueck, 2009, Mixed media, © Ron Mueck, Photo Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, London

In the next room, the dreamlike atmosphere is accentuated, with a giant dead chicken, a small naked woman wearing wood sticks or a small young woman wearing a baby. This last work is the most unsurprising one in its subject: a mother wearing her child cosily protected in her coat, while her hands are occupied with bags full of groceries. But the cold face of the woman, who seems to have aged prematurely, her total lack of communication with her baby, the child’s face, all stir uneasy feelings of solitude, of the heaviness of life’s duties.

Mask II, Ron Mueck, 2001, Mixed media, Anthony d’Offay, London © Ron Mueck, Photo Courtesy of Anthony d’Offay, London

The exhibition goes on in the basement, with a breathtaking giant sleeping head just at the end of the stairs. The portrait, which recalls much of its creator’s features, destroys the illusion of realism, by showing its structure. It is a kind of oversized mask, the back revealing a large void. All Mueck’s sculptures are in fact very light, their core being empty and supported by wooden structures, as shown in Gautier Deblonde’s movie.

The basement mixes previously released works (as a mysterious naked man sitting in a large wooden boat and looking towards who knows what) with new ones, as a young couple of lovers, which first exudes tenderness, then some questions when seen from the back, the boy tightly grasping the girl’s forearm.

One room appears like a real installation, the lighting having been arranged by the artist in order to create a complete environment. In a bluish light reminiscent of the sea-side, one smaller than life man, only wearing swimming-pants, is leaning on a plastic mattress, his arms stretched on each size. A relaxed attitude, but which also immediately evokes Jesus on the cross. Moreover, the man’s position, high on the wall, obliges the visitors to crane their neck towards him, while he seems to look down at them, somewhat ironically, from behind his black sunglasses.

All these characters, with their incredible realism, are like mirrors of ourselves and of our society, but their strange scales, their surprising attitudes, also border on mystery and dream, and make the viewers wonder about these creatures’ life, about what is going on in their minds. One cannot remain indifferent in front of such works, which makes this exhibition an unforgettable one and a unique experience.

Ron Mueck Exhibition
Date: April 16th – September 29th, 2013
Opening hours: 11:00 – 21:00 (Tuesday until 22:00)
Closed on Monday
Place: Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
Address: 261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 4218 5650

Text: Valérie Douniaux
Photos: Courtesy of the artist and Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain © Ron Mueck

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