Mueck’s big people at the Warhol Museum

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Stella, Steve and I visited the Warhol Museum earlier this month to see the Ron Mueck sculptures, seven of the figurative sculpture master’s works on view throughout the museum’s galleries. I asked Rick Armstrong of the Warhol if the show was the same as the one Libby saw at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006 and he said it had some overlap but wasn’t the same show. See Libby’s post for more on the Brooklyn show.

Mueck - In Bed (A) 300 dpi.jpg
Ron Mueck
In Bed, 2006
Mixed Media
63 ¾” x 256 ⅞” x 155 ½”
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia

We were told to start at the top of the museum and work our way down Guggenheim-style so we got the elevator to 7 which is where four of the Muecks were. The top floor has a big gallery with a grid of large skylights. Unfortunately there was a condensation leak in a skylight over In Bed, and the clear plastic sheeting that was put up to cover the skylight and protect the piece was draped in such a way as to obstruct the view of the piece except from one angle up close. Armstrong said in a recent email that the plastic tarp is gone and they’re testing to see what can be done to correct the leakage problem. I’m glad to hear it because it was disappointing to see the piece that way.

Ron Mueck, Wild Man, photo by Shannon McClean
Wild Man, photo by Shannon McClean.

Beyond the In Bed disappointment, the rest of the Muecks were marvelous — and marvelously sited. The Wild Man (seen in Shannon McClean’s photo) was across the space from the lady in bed. He towers over you, nude, alert and glaring, and his power is not only his size and nudity but also the knowledge that real humans behaving badly often look gentler than him. In fact there’s something ambiguous in the piece and I could have as easily believed he was “Scared Man.” In this time of post-Abu Ghraib it’s easy to think that this man is wild with fear.

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Ron Mueck
A Girl, 2007
Mixed Media
43” x 198” x 53”
National Galleries of Scotland

In his best works Mueck suggests the vulnerability of flesh and the hardness of mind. Soft on the outside, and difficult — almost unknowable — on the inside. Girl — sited in a room at the Warhol that has photos and works on the wall featuring nursing mothers — already has her steely eye open and is sizing things up while apparently only moments old. This quizzical open eye seems to accuse all who look at it. Why am I here? What can you do to help me? She is not swaddled nor is she being nursed. She is raw new life on the floor and she’s asking you to think about her–and about yourself and your neighbor and about your connection to others. It’s the most powerful of the Mueck works and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Unlike Duane Hansen, another hyper-realist sculptor, Mueck, Australian-born and London-based, is not smug or all-knowing. He seems to give birth to these individuals who are Everyman and Everywoman caught in a state of reverie and sadness. Like religious statuary the works are highly personal. They incite reveries about the human condition — your own and that of others. I’d love to see them embraced as public art and installed in places where everyone could feast their eyes and minds on them.

Ron MueckMask II, 2001-2002Mixed Media30” x 46 ½” x 33 ½”Courtesy of the artist and Anthony d'Offay, LondonPrivate Collection, on loan to the National Galleriesof Scotland, Edinburgh
Ron MueckMask II, 2001-2002Mixed Media30” x 46 ½” x 33 ½”Courtesy of the artist and Anthony d’Offay, LondonPrivate Collection, on loan to the National Galleriesof Scotland, Edinburgh

Mueck’s Mask II is what it says it is. The front is finished as if it’s like his other sculptures. But the back is hollow. The idea is not new but the execution is superb.

The Warhol Museum

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Julia Warhola drawings of cats, photo courtesy of the Warhola family website.

Descending to lower levels in the museum we enjoyed all the Warhol works — the Jackie and Marilyns, the Brillo Boxes, the celebrity portraits, the memorabilia. I especially liked the animal-theme room in which Mama Julia Warhol’s cat drawings held their weight with the drawings of her son. Julia’s drawings — with the word “purr” written in curlicue letters in sprightly sprays of pattern in the background — were just the right amount of nutty.

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Cecil the taxidermied dog at the Warhol Museum. Photo from the museum.

There was a huge dog — a taxidermied Great Dane — on display. The animal had beeb a show dog at one time and found its way to Warhol through a circuitous route involving an antique store. There is also a stuffed lion in one of the stairwells–but I didn’t get the story about that. I loved seeing the animals–it showed just how very intertwined Warhol’s life and his art were.


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We all enjoyed the mylar silver pillow room in which the pillows seem to swim in the air like a school of sardines circling in the water. Whether it’s a comment on humans or just fun and silvery, it’s great fun to get in there and swim with the fish.

The Mueck works are at the Warhol through March 30. They’re well worth the visit.

Tags

ron mueck, warhol museum

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