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Work in progress from 'Untitled (Mask IIt)', 2002, Ron Mueck.
© Ron Mueck, Courtesy Anthony d'Offay, London

It takes just a couple of minutes of your time in the net. Once you've typed in "Ron Mueck", any search engine would give you the same result: documents by the thousand. Does he still really need to be introduced? Australian, German parents, travelled to the States, settled down in London, nothing to do with arts -in the strict sense of the term- for twenty long years, his CV is a jungle of important experiences in children's tv, special effects for movies, advertising. The use of silicone and acrylic he now got us used to is not even new, it's crafts he mastered for films such as ´The storyteller` and ´Labyrinth` by Jim Henson. Between 1996 and 1997, though, he probably decided to apply his skills somewhere else and, in 1997, entered the art world the boombastic way: the exhibition ´Sensations: Works of art from the Saatchi Collection` at the Royal Accademy in London and, later on, at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. His present solo exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin) throws the audience back into his world made of figurative sculptures lacking just the breath of life. Is that it? Is it just craft at its highest peak making the piece of art, giving mixed reactions (never indifference) to so many visitors? We think there is a bit more to it than reality, with its crude imperfections (pimples, unpleasant hairs, badly-cut nails, broken veins) on human bodies that look oh-so-real. All these almost-alive sculptures are vulnerable. And not because of their imperfections, but because depicted in private moments in which being the focus of attention could embarass or make uncomfortable almost anyone. Pregnancy at its last swollen stage, nakedness, the discovery of one's own figure at a mirror, ageing. Mueck could easily hurt them. He doesn't. He shelters them with their own dignity, their own integrity. Shocking, offending, hurting is somehow easy. Dealing with human beings (even if, in this case, they are fitctitious because the creation of a prolific mind) in such moments and in such a delicate way is difficult.

Rineke Dijkstra, Forte de Casa, May 20, 2000
Courtesy Rineke Dijkstra and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
© Rineke Dijkstra

When visiting the exhibition and having all this in mind, we dared to think of some works of the Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra, who portraited people shortly after moments of great emotional impact (bullfighters after their performances, women with their babies just after having given birth to them.) Their times and their means could not be more apart: Dijkstra takes pictures (a micro second), Mueck sculptures (a definitely longer process.) Even the object of their discourse is very different: she deals with real people, he invents his own people. Still, the way they approach human beings in their private, delicate moments to make art out of it has the same unmissable, undeniable intensity.

RON MUECK, from September 10 to November 2, 2003. Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (Germany)
The exhibition then travels to De Hallen, Haarlem (The Netherlands), from November 10, 2003, to January 18, 2004.

(for Rineke Dijkstra)
-Girls Night Out-, from September 14, 2003, to January 25, 2004. Orange County Museum of Art, New Port Beach, CA (USA)
-Cruel and Tender: The Real in the 20th-Century Photographs-, from December 6, 2003, to February 18, 2004. Ludwig Museum, Köln (Germany)

Text: M. Cecchinato
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