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The Australian-born artist Ron Mueck creates works that can take months or even years to complete. Carefully formed figurative sculptures in often-monumental proportions, Mueck’s practice has yielded just 48 works in the last quarter of a century. Executed with an eerie type of realism, the artist makes pieces of universal nature that suggest the realities of the human condition, both bright and dark—such as his 2017 commission for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Mass, which is the focal point of the exhibition at Fondation Cartier.
Open until November 5, the exhibition (Mueck’s third at the Fondation Cartier, and his first solo show in Paris) showcases the artist’s more recent creative evolution through a combination of iconic pieces from his career, along with new compositions made especially for the show. Presented for the first time outside of Australia, the central work, Mass—consisting of 100 giant replicas of human skulls, piled into a mountainous installation—greets visitors with a pensive dialogue suggesting ideas of life and death when seen installed against the tall glass walls and surrounding foliage of the contemporary art museum.
The accompanying figures seen throughout the spacious galleries are at once ordinary and extraordinary, their impeccable forms brushing the lines of uncanniness. The tiniest, as well as the oldest work on view, Mueck’s Baby (2000) hangs on the wall, a newborn in the buff, measuring just ten inches long. Meanwhile, more representative of the artist’s usual scale of choice, Mueck’s 2006 creation A Girl (measuring more than 16 feet long) surveys the room around her through the suspicious squint of an infant who is being introduced to the world for the very first time.
Nearby, visitors will find a tense trio of dogs in larger-than-life proportions—En Garde—ready to pounce, overlooking a smaller configuration sitting opposite. The work in question, This Little Piggy, is the artist’s first time allowing viewers a look into his creative process by presenting something not completely finished. Posted on a small platform and taking the form of a group of men crouching and kneeling over the body of a hog, a closer look reveals that the bodies are in various states of completion, with one still bearing visible remnants of its structural clay, yet to be smoothed into clothing and facial features.