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Comprehensive survey of works by sculptor Ron Mueck opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Ron Mueck, Man in a Boat, 2002, mixed media, Courtesy Anthony d’Offay, London. © Ron Mueck.

HOUSTON, TX.- In February, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Ron Mueck, an exhibition of major works by contemporary sculptor Ron Mueck, who produces hauntingly realistic figures that also challenge perception through shifts in scale. Following an internationally acclaimed tour, which travelled from the Fondation Cartier in Paris to Latin America, the Houston presentation of Ron Mueck has been conceived for U.S. audiences. It brings together 13 works, approximately one-third of the artist’s total oeuvre. Assembled from public and private collections around the world, the exhibition focuses on Mueck’s treatment of the stages of life, and addresses our collective fascination with the nature of physical existence and the ambiguity of the unknown. Ron Mueck is on view in Houston from February 26 to August 13, 2017.

Internationally celebrated for his eerily lifelike figures, Mueck examines the human condition through the medium of sculpture, creating works with astonishing verisimilitude and emotional resonance. He draws his subjects from memories, reveries, and glimpsed moments, instilling his figures with a profound poignancy as they are caught in moments of reflection and slumber. With extraordinary attention to detail—down to each wrinkle, pore, vein, and strand of hair—Mueck portrays key stages in our lives, from the first moment of consciousness right through to death. The naturalism of his work, however, is undercut by his deliberate play with scale: some figures are monumental and fill a gallery, whereas others stand no more than two feet high.

“I have been fascinated with Ron Mueck’s work since my first encounter at the sensation show in London in 1997,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “At first glance, his work seems to be part of our every-day experience. But then his unforgettable figures continue to resonate evocatively with the history of art and philosophy, provoking the large questions regarding who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.”

“We were very fortunate to be able to work with Ron Mueck, Anthony d’Offay, and Hauser & Wirth in planning this exhibition,” added Alison de Lima Greene, Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and organizing curator of the exhibition. “As we reviewed the selection of sculptures, we concentrated not only on the essential theme of the stages of life, but also on the ways in which Mueck uses shifts in scale to create drama and intimacy.”

Featuring Mueck’s famous self-portrait, Mask II (2001–02), the exhibition also presents many of the artist’s most iconic works, ranging from the self-questioning adolescent in Crouching Boy in Mirror (1999–2002) to the aging partners of Couple under an Umbrella (2013). Also on view are some of Mueck’s more unsettling works that explore themes of mortality, including Man in a Boat (2002), in which Mueck portrays an anxious traveler, perhaps in the underworld; and Youth (2009), a teenager lifting up his blood-stained T-shirt to reveal a knife wound.

The 2013 film Still Life: Ron Mueck at Work by Gautier Deblonde, commissioned by the Fondation Cartier, will be screened in conjunction with the exhibition. Working closely with the artist over a period of years, Deblonde eloquently documents Mueck’s studio practice as the sculptures come to life under the artist’s hand.

The exhibition was curated by Alison de Lima Greene, Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, in consultation with the artist and Anthony d’Offay.

Ron Mueck was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1958 to German émigré parents. He was raised in the family business of toy making and puppetry. He spent the first two decades of his professional career as a model maker for film and television. Examples of his animatronics can be seen in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) and The Storyteller series (1987). Mueck debuted on the international art scene in 1997 with Dead Dad (1996–97), one of the standout works featured in Sensation! Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. In 1999, he became Artist Associate at the National Gallery, London, which allowed him to occupy a studio within the building, and gave him access to the collection and a space to create new work. The resulting exhibition, Ron Mueck: Making Sculpture at the National Gallery (2003), was among the first of many museum surveys. Over the past decade, Mueck’s work has been featured in group and solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (2005), the Brooklyn Museum (2006), the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2007), the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris (2005 & 2013), the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2014), and the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Tampere, Finland (2016), among other venues.

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