- Dates: November 3, 2006 through February 4, 2007
- Collections: Contemporary Art
- Location: This exhibition is no longer on view in Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, Cantor Gallery, 5th Floor
- Description: Ron Mueck. [11/03/2006 - 02/04/2007]. Installation view.
- Citation: Brooklyn Museum Digital Collections and Services. Records of the Department of Digital Collections and Services. (DIG_E_2006_Mueck)
- Source: born digital
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One of the most compelling, and valid, reasons to show contemporary art in an encyclopedic museum like Brooklyn is to remind ourselves that the great themes are always with us. Birth and death, love and loneliness, body and mind—these are among the elemental subjects of art as old as the earliest objects in the Museum’s famed Egyptian collection, and as fresh as Ron Mueck’s remarkable recent sculpture.
In the rotunda gallery where you now stand, the Museum usually exhibits its collection of sculpture by Auguste Rodin (now displayed in the first-floor entrance pavilion). It is interesting to compare the two artists, both “realists” of a sort, but with very different goals.
Rodin’s figures are so convincing that he was accused of casting from nature. Yet he deliberately included the marks of his fingers in clay and his chisel on stone. Thus, he reminds us that the sculptures are the product of a human mind and hand, while simultaneously claiming the role of the heroic artist.
Mueck, no less skillful a mimic of nature, tries to appear as detached and invisible as a photographer. The illusion draws us into an incomplete story as romantic as any Hollywood movie, yet more believable and certainly more palpable. A fresh-born, innocent Baby hangs on a wall in a Christ-like pose; a resigned Man in a Boat floats, adrift and naked, in a vast and waterless sea.
Many of the sculptures bear a striking resemblance to Mueck himself or to his family or friends, and most of them are substantially either larger or smaller than life-size. These facts add new layers of suggestion, mystery, and meaning, as we float, god-like, above a father’s corpse, or stand like re-made children next to mama’s bed.
Rodin famously built his sculpture out of bits and pieces—a closely studied hand was attached to a torso, perhaps, then a foot, then the head—and frequently exhibited the fragments themselves as finished works. Mueck, too, has made a meticulous study of the body. Yet, his philosophical approach to its depiction is the inverse of Rodin’s. “The only way I could do a fragment was to make it a mask,” he has said, “because a mask is a whole thing in itself. I couldn’t do a decapitated head or half a body.
I have to believe in the object as a whole thing.” Perhaps, as much as his technical skill, it is his own belief that ultimately convinces us, as well.
Deputy Director for Art