Hirshhorn Plaza

Untitled (Big Man)

July 18 to October 27, 2002
Featuring four startlingly realistic, out-of-scale figures by the Australian-born, London-based Ron Mueck (b. 1958), this exhibition was the artist’s first museum solo show and marked the return of the popular Untitled (Big Man) (2000) from the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection. Also on view were sculptures of a miniature newborn and a colossal sleeping mask, as well as of a diminutive, bed-ridden old woman that had never been exhibited in the United States.

Born in Melbourne, the artist has practiced his craft since childhood, when he fabricated his own playthings. Although never formally trained as an artist, Mueck continued to develop his considerable skills working as an animatronics technician and model maker for children’s television, motion picture special effects, and the advertising industry, first in Australia (from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s) and then in Great Britain (from the mid-1980s onward).

Mueck turned to sculpture in the mid-1990s after making a half-size Pinocchio figure, which served as a model for the painter Paula Rego, his mother-in-law, and was displayed beside Rego’s Disney-inspired canvases in the exhibition Spellbound: Art and Film at the Hayward Gallery, London.

The artist spends months modeling his figures in clay on armatures built from metal and chicken wire to create forms that he casts in fiberglass resin or silicon. Mueck completes a work by painting in specific details such as blemishes and adding elements such as resin eyeballs and strands of monofilament, which are drilled or punched individually into surfaces to represent eyelashes, eyebrows, stubble, and hair.

The exhibition was curated by Sidney Lawrence.

The exhibition was made possible through the generosity of Robert Lehrman, Trellis Fund, the Cultural Affairs Office of the Australian Embassy, and contributions to the Hirshhorn’s Annual Circle.

Third Floor

About the Directions Series
Since its opening in 1974, the Hirshhorn has been committed to providing a platform for the artists of today. Directions, established in 1979 as a group installation and transformed in 1987 to highlight the work of a single artist or paired artists, has been a longstanding hallmark of the Museum’s exhibition program and partnership with living artists. Bringing a diverse range of emerging and established artists from around the world to Washington, the series provides a prominent space on the National Mall for new work and new ideas.