Image: Rae Allen
The ability to recognize human faces as human is among civilization’s most important cognitive processes. If something seems natural but looks slightly off, there’s a tendency to feel distaste – hence terms like “uncanny valley.” It’s this abnormality that makes Australian-born Ron Mueck’s sculptures so downright disturbing: they almost look real, but there’s something about them that’s not quite right. They’re lifelike in that they could almost be breathing through their oversized – or, indeed, undersized – lungs, yet they’re static and lifeless. That most familiar of everyday images – another human face – is rendered into something complex and disconcerting by his striking three-dimensional art.
Image: Jaque Tseng
Ron Mueck is a “hyperrealist” artist, though his work is just as concerned with invoking feelings as it is with accurately recreating the human form. According to The New York Times, his pieces are so lifelike that viewers “might almost converse with them.” That said, the newspaper added that Mueck’s figures “seem to embody, in one way or another, the challenges and perils of the human condition.”
Furthermore, Mueck’s sculptures are not of a realistic scale, as Mueck abandons accuracy in favor of artistic intuition. In an interview with Sculpture magazine, he explained, “With ‘Big Man’ [a work created in 2000], his feet were too large for his body. I ended up distorting the work in order to enhance the feeling of the piece rather than to make it look precisely like a particular person.”