Ron Mueck25 years of sculpture, 1996-2021

Ron Mueck Dark Place, 2018 Mixed media 140 x 90 x 75 cm (55.12 x 35.43 x 29.53 in) Photo: Marcus Leith © artist Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac gallery | London • Paris • Salzburg • Seoul

Ron Mueck: 25 years of sculpture, 1996-2021 – the artist’s first exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac – will mark the most comprehensive gallery study of the internationally renowned sculptor to date. The exhibition will showcase the artist’s most famous pieces over a two-and-a-half-decade career, as well as unseen and unseen sculptures.

They share a vulnerability, not only with each other but also with Mueck himself, who taps into his own intensely personal thoughts, emotions and life experiences to produce a register of universal emotions and experiences that we can all relate to. – Jasper Sharp, art historian and curator, whose essay will be published on the occasion of the exhibition.

Ron Mueck Dead Dad, 1996-1997 Mixed media 20 x 38 x 102 cm (7.87 x 14.96 x 40.16 in) © artist Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac gallery | London • Paris • Salzburg • Seoul

The artist’s best-known work, Dead Dad (1996-97), may be on display in the UK for the first time in over 20 years. It was first featured in the Royal Academy’s landmark exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection (1997), which helped establish Mueck’s international reputation. Acquired by Charles Saatchi when it was created, the work has since been part of the Stefan T. Edlis collection, whose sculpture is on loan.

The play stopped most of the visitors [to Sensation] … In their tracks. Dead Dad was something so shockingly real and so shockingly unreal that, like an unexpected trauma, he left an indelible mark… one of Mueck’s earliest works, he immediately established his uniqueness. —Robert Rosenblum, Ron Mueck, 2005

In art historian Jasper Sharp’s essay for the exhibition, he examines Mueck’s sculptures through the prism of the seven ages of man, referring to the monologue “Everybody’s a Scene” by As You Like It by William Shakespeare (1623). The works on display trace the full spectrum of human experience, from “the womb to the grave”, as Robert Rosenblum describes it, encompassing the child, the schoolboy, the young lover, the soldier, the justice of middle age, the eldest and the “last scene of all… second childishness and simple forgetfulness”.

Mother and Child (2003), the artist’s first depiction of a couple of characters in close contact with each other, shows the first moments immediately after birth when mother and child meet as than being separated. Conveying the psychological complexities of this newly formed relationship, they remain attached by the umbilical cord, but this physical closeness belies a disturbing sense of isolation.

Ron Mueck Youth, 2009/2011 Mixed media 65 x 28 x 16 cm (25.59 x 11.02 x 6.3 in) © artist Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac gallery | London • Paris • Salzburg • Seoul

Youth (2009/2011), the touching figure of a young black man revealing a stab in the side, recalls the old masters’ representations of the suffering and urgency of contemporary knife crime. This vulnerable little schoolboy has not been sufficiently protected from the world, and the viewer is drawn into the drama of this moment – a collective failure in which all are complicit. The work was recently presented in the Sin exhibition at the National Gallery in London (2020-2021).

In Woman with Shopping (2014), Mueck portrays the struggles of early parenthood, which Sharp associates with Shakespeare’s character of the soldier. As Mother and Child (2003) explores the emotional resonances of birth, here we see the aftermath: an exhausted-looking woman weighed down by the grocery bags in each hand and the baby strapped to her chest. Once again, the physical proximity between mother and child reinforces the feeling of disconnection between them, the distant gaze of the mother indicating resignation to her role of “gatherer, hunter-gatherer, provider of her family, persevering” .

Dark Place (2018) is exhibited for the first time, shown in low light with “the subject’s emotional turmoil laid bare; there is no vanity here ”. A middle-aged face, this sculpture refers to earlier works by the artist, including his first self-portrait in the Frowning Mask (1997). Mueck originally intended to create an updated self-portrait, but was struck by the distraught and broken appearance of the photographer, which became the basis of this haunting face.

Ron MueckCouple Under an Umbrella, 2013/2015 Mixed media 275 x 455 x 330 cm (108.27 x 179.13 x 129.92 in) Courtesy Museum Voorlinden © the artist Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac gallery | London • Paris • Salzburg • Seoul

One of his most monumental works to date, Couple Under an Umbrella (2013/2015), shows an elderly couple resting under a colorful parasol, their aged bodies and relaxed closeness presented at twice the actual size . Unwavering meditation on the physical vulnerabilities of aging and the endurance of a relationship, the sculpture’s towering scale places us in a new and unfamiliar relationship with the characters, increasing our awareness of the space our own bodies occupy and how. we compare ourselves to Mueck’s. the creations.

In Dead Dad (1996-97) and the most recent work on display, Dead Weight (2021), Mueck presents the “last scene of all,” completing the last stage in the cycle of life. A monumental reminder of our own mortality, the unpublished dead weight marks a departure for the artist, his first cast iron sculpture. A towering one-ton human skull dominating the ground floor gallery, this work is part of Mueck’s ongoing exploration of the skull as a subject and relates to his display of 100 skulls in the installation Mass (2016-17) at the opening of the National Galerie Victoria Triennial in Melbourne. Unlike his previous works, the sculpture bears all the marks of his production: “The seam lines, the scars,” writes Sharp, “it is clearly not a real skull and yet, like the dead father, one feels the presence of ‘a soul .’

This apparent presence of a soul or animating life force is part of what makes Mueck’s characters so compelling, inviting empathetic engagement with the challenges and perils of our common humanity. His intimate meditations on universal experiences range from companionship and compassion to vulnerability and loss, confronting the viewer with their own inner workings at each of the different ages – those lived and those to be experienced.

Ron Mueck 25 Years of Sculpture, 1996-2021 Ely House 37 Dover Street, London W1S 4NJ
October 13 — November 13, 2021


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