Mask, by Ron Mueck

November 30, 2005
Mask, 1997, by Ron Mueck

Mask, 1997, by Ron Mueck
polyester resin and mixed media
62.2 x 60.2 x 48.8 in.
On loan from the collection of J. Tomilson and Janine Wolf Hill

Self-trained, London-based artist Ron Mueck, born in 1958, began his career as a puppet-maker and puppeteer for children's television in Australia. He has fabricated numerous models for television, advertising, and films, including Labyrinth (1986).

In 1995, Mueck's mother-in-law, the painter Paula Rego, asked him to create a hyper-realistic, life-size sculpture of a boy for use as a model. Upon seeing the work, titled Little Boy/Pinocchio, in Rego's studio, advertising mogul and art collector Charles Saatchi commissioned several works from Mueck, including Mask, a self-portrait, which appeared in the now infamous exhibition, "Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection" (1997).

Mueck's technical virtuosity is astounding, and the viewer may initially be drawn to his painstaking attention to detail. However, the work becomes more and more unsettling upon further observation. Far from being the passive object of an invisible onlooker, Mask asserts its dominance both through its gigantic proportions and combative gaze. This work turns the viewer into the fictive object of the gaze, and as self-portrait, is the artist's playful way of seizing control over his own image. Mask, as disguise, thus challenges the viewer to re-examine the concept of self-representation.