Ron Mueck / Andy Hope, Hauser and Wirth, review

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Mark Hudson reviews four new sculptures by YBA realist Ron Mueck (three stars), and the first solo exhibition of young German artist Andy Hope (two stars) at Hauser and Wirth.

Ron Mueck sprang to prominence via Dead Dad, his father’s pallid, naked corpse recreated in silicone, with every last micro-blade of stubble rendered in unnerving hyper-real detail. What made the piece particularly disconcerting was the fact that it was, at 3ft, roughly half life-size; the sense of looking at an old man’s body on the scale of a small child’s inducing mixed feelings of vulnerability, compassion and a kind of shamed revulsion.

Seen alongside Damien Hirst’s dead shark in Sensation, the exhibition that launched the YBA generation amid an orgy of publicity in 1997, Dead Dad felt all of a piece with that group’s preoccupation with mortality and macabre spectacle.

Yet over the intervening years, the fiercely private Mueck’s relationship to the publicity-hungry YBAs has come to be seen as largely accidental.

Slightly older than them at 53, Mueck has gone on playing with scale, creating figures either creepily small or overbearingly large: a pair of goblin-like crones in immaculately sewn overcoats, a massive, wild-eyed naked tramp seated in a chair, an ordinary mum in bed turned into a room-filling giantess.

Mueck began as a model-maker in his native Australia, and the how-does-he-do-it factor of his extraordinary creations tends to go before whatever it is he is trying to say, to the extent it has been questioned whether he is really an artist at all. A landmark show at the Royal Scottish Academy in 2006 strained after profundity in attempting to show the various stages of life, from gauche teenager to ceiling-scraping granny. Yet the astonishing realism of these figures rendered them paradoxically illustrative, even cartoon-like. A vast newborn baby, still coated in blood and mucus, would, you felt, have been better seen in the Natural History Museum than in an art gallery.
 

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