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 is the artist’s first museum solo show and marks the return of the popular Untitled (Big Man) (2000) from the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection. Also on view are sculptures of a miniature newborn and a colossal sleeping mask, as well as of a diminutive, bed-ridden old woman that has 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 mid-1980s) and then Great Britain (from the mid-1980s on).

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 which he casts in fiberglass resin or silicon. Mueck completes a work by painting in specific details like 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 is 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. (Sidney Lawrence, curator. Brochure.)