Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Humanist Sculptures of Ron Mueck

Mask II (2002) Ron Mueck

A girl (2006) Ron Mueck

Mueck's sculpture is described as 'hyper-real'. Define the meaning of this term and apply it to his work.
Hyper-realism is an artistic style characterized by highly realistic graphic representation (“hyper-realism,” 2009). It is characterised in art by depiction of real life in an unusual or striking manner (“hyper-realism,” 2011). Mueck’s works are certainly hyper-real, graphically representing aspects of or the human form in striking larger than life or unusual miniature sculptures. The sheer size of his larger pieces are startling to the viewer and enable Mueck to show small details usually unseen on a normal sized human being, on a large scale for all to see. His smaller than everyday pieces show things usually unseen as a whole, completely. Both scales show the human figure in their most intimate, isolated and vulnerable moments (MacIntyre, 2010). While some of his sculptures seem grotesque and unappealing, I like them for their realistic qualities even on a non-human scale. I like Mask II for its calmness and serenity but find A Girl to be quite ugly which could be because of the facial expression of the girl and her puffy dangling limbs.

Mueck is not interested in making life size sculpture. Find out why he is more interested in working with the scale of the figure which is not life size, and mention 2 works which use scale that is either larger or smaller than life.
“I never made life-size figures because it never seemed to be interesting. We meet life-size people every day” (Tanguy, 2003). I like this statement from Mueck about his work and agree that what is different from what we see everyday either in miniature or in large scale always seems more interesting to see and more mind occupying than if it were in regular size.  It makes you take notice in a way that you wouldn’t do with something that’s just normal (Tanguy, 2003).

The huge work Big Man could have been just a sculpture of a regular old man but when made to be on a dramatic and large scale, details can be observed about it, such as the fact that he has no hair whatsoever on his body and this makes it interesting and fascinating to look at. His human imperfections such as wrinkled skin and folds in his flesh due to his pose are noticed and make you wonder about this person as a human being and the movement of the body.

One of his smaller sculptures Mother and Child, of a naked woman who has just given birth with her newborn child crouched on her belly, in its tiny half-scale size allows you to see all the work and detail put into the artwork. Its realistic nature on such a small scale allows the viewer to see everything that is going on from the emotion on the mothers face to the tiny limbs of the baby all in one glance. Colin Wiggins, the curator for a show in the National Gallery where Mother and Child showed, commented that 'You [feel like you are] confronting a sacred object. You could see that it was communicating something in a visceral and emotional way’ (O’Hagan, 2006). Damien Hirst commented on Mueck’s work saying 'It's all about scale, not size. [Mueck’s work is] smaller than life-size and absolutely massive. It's so emotional that, once you see it, you can't get it out of your head’ (O’Hagan, 2006).

Define Renaissance Humanism, and analyze the term in order to apply it to an example of Mueck's work. Note that the contemporary definition of Humanism is much broader than the Renaissance definition.
Renaissance humanism is the rediscovery and re-evaluation of the aspects of classical civilization (de Bracton, 1994) of ancient Greece and Rome. In terms of art it was about rendering the outside world according to the principles of human reason (Blunt, 1962). Naturalism based on the scientific study of the outside world by the means of the weapons of perspective and anatomy (Blunt, 1962) was a major part of humanism in the renaissance along with realism. Mueck’s work is very humanistic with his studies of real-life models and photographs to produce his work, and his realistic portrayal of the human form in the final sculptures. This is seen in Mueck’s work Big Man. Mueck started with a smaller sculpture of a man wrapped in blankets done from his imagination. He found a model as close to the sculpture physically as he could and studied his figure closely observing what he could and couldn’t do in terms of poses that would appear as natural as possible. When the man sat down in the corner waiting for Mueck to decide what scale and pose to position him in he sat in this pose and Mueck liked it. He did a clay study about a foot high and took photographs of it and drew in a small person next to it in one of the images. Liking this scale he decided upon doing the final sculpture large scale and painting it so as it appeared weathered with age spots, veins and things so as he appeared as realistic as possible (Tunguy, 2003). I like the realistic qualities of Mueck’s works even on different scales to what is considered normal in human scale. I think the fact that his sculptures appear so realistic is what makes them so interesting as we as the viewer can see without imagining what the human form would look like on such scale be it larger or smaller. We can see what the details and aspects of the human anatomy appear like in different sizes and what is noticed standing out or only seen after close and lengthy viewing.

Research and discuss one of Mueck's sculptures that you might find challenging or exciting to experience in an art gallery. Describe the work, upload an image of the work, and explain your personal response to the work.
A work that I would find challenging to experience in an art gallery would have to be Dead Dad. The smaller-than-life-size sculpture of a naked, dead male is kind of creepy to me. ‘Laid out as if awaiting the mortician's blade’ (O’Hagan, 2006) is exactly how I would describe the sculpture. The limbs especially the hands just lying lifeless on the floor appear too still and make me uncomfortable with the idea of death displayed for all to see. The fact that it is only 3ft long and smaller that life is reassuring as we know from just the scale of it that it’s not a real person but it’s obvious ‘deadness’ is concerning. Mueck says that “I didn't really get on with my father but, as I made the piece, I found myself thinking about him, caring" (O’Hagan, 2006). This fact makes the work less chilling to me as if it helped Mueck feel better about his relationship with his father, it doesn’t seem quite so eerie and disturbing.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Therefore I Am Barbara Kruger

I shop therefore I am, 1987 Barbara Kruger

Face It (Green) 2007

Barbara Kruger has been described as a feminist, conceptual and a pop artist.
Her work reflects her interest in graphic design, photography, poetry and writing.

Describe the 'style' that Kruger has used in the two presented works.
Kruger uses her knowledge and interest in graphic design and writing to produce black and white images with thought provoking statements overlaid. The phrases usually make a bold statement that is juxtaposed by the image behind them and use pronouns such as “you”, “I”, “your”, “we” and “they” to invoke a reaction in the viewer and make them consider the message behind the artwork and her point in creating it. She has perfected a signature agitprop style, using large-scale, black-and-white photographic images juxtaposed with raucous, pithy, and often ironic aphorisms, printed in Futura Bold typeface against black, white, or deep red text bars ( I shop therefore I am portrays a black and white image of a hand holding a sign bearing the words of its title. The image made me think of the meaning behind it and the point Kruger is trying to get across.  To me she is making us question what we do and how that makes us who we are. In the case of Face It, she has given it a green tinge to invoke the idea of money and how we spend it to make ourselves appear a certain way to the world or in hope of gaining something from what we wear. The image of a silky and shiny textured garment with a label reading “this luxurious garment won’t make you rich or beautiful” is overlaid with the printed words “Face It!” and made me think about the clothes I wear and the message that the clothes I do wear send out, in comparison to what I want them to say to those who see me.

What are some of the concepts and messages that Kruger is communicating in them?
Do these images communicate these ideas effectively? Explain your answer.
The bold obvious text speaks to the viewer Kruger’s opinions about a subject the images describe. The layering of the images with words directly on top make those viewing the image question why they are put together and the message behind them. To me, in these two artworks, Kruger is making the viewer think about who they are and what they do. It makes us think about ourselves socially and how we appear to the world as well as question our consumerism and materialism in what we have and need to have these things to be seen a certain way to achieve our goals.
Kruger’s knowledge from magazine publishing means she knows how to catch the eye of the viewer and hold their attention with her artworks and make them think about what they are being shown through them. Their wide distribution—under the artist’s supervision—in the form of umbrellas, tote bags, postcards, mugs, T-shirts, posters, and so on, (ROGALLERY.COM, 2009) to me spreads these ideas effectively in the fact that anyone who sees the images will question for themselves their meaning. It also advertises in the public her point of view in comparison to our own and our individuality as humans.

Define the concept of Mercantilism and explain how these two examples can connect with the concept.
Mercantilism is a political and economic system that arose in the 17th and 18th centuries that purports that a country's economic strength is directly related to the maintenance of a positive balance of trade. That is, in order to remain economically and politically viable, a country must export more than it imports.
From a merchant's perspective, profit originated from "buying cheap and selling dear." This is in contrast to the sacred belief of marketplace ideology held by classical economists—that exchange should be made on the basis of equivalents. Mercantilists believed, moreover, that the seller gains via the buyer's loss. Therefore, a nation will only become richer if it exports or sells more than it imports or buys. The view that profit or surplus originates in the unequal exchange of commodities was therefore perfectly consistent with the mercantilist policy of controlling the terms of trade (Sarich, J.A. The two examples above by Kruger connect with this concept on the basis of money and buying trade items. Face It especially connects with this idea with its green tinge that is often associated with money in which mercantilism is all about. The idea of it making us think about what we buy portrayed in Kruger’s work relates as we buy things for a certain reason and like the principle behind mercantilism we often are buying things for a lot more than they actually cost for the sellers benefit.

Upload a more recent example of Kruger's work where she has used a new medium that is not graphic design. Title your image of the chosen work and comment on your response to the work. How do you think the audience would experience this work?

GAP Artist Edition T-shirt by Barbara Kruger
Limited Edition T-Shirt Collection Presented by Gap and the Whitney Museum of American Art Features the Works of Today's Most Influential Contemporary Artists.

I found it hard to find a more recent work by Kruger but found this 2008 fashion design T-shirt by Kruger for Gap. It is a combination of both graphic and fashion design and is a design on a t-shirt with no images but the text “Computers, sun glasses, watches, furniture, house & art (Plenty should be enough).”  The collection of shirts was aimed at celebrating the intersection of art and fashion and enable people to access contemporary art in a different way, says Marka Hansen, President of the Gap brand North America (Gokcen, S. 2008). I like it as a design for clothing garment and think that it still incorporates her preferred medium and artistic nature. I think an audience would stop and want to appreciate and read this top and think about what is written on it as they passed it by. I think that the fact it is in a collection of t-shirts by contemporary artists for a major clothing company in America would get this design seen by many and would probably sell well. I like the simplicity of the 3 colours and large lettering in contrast to the tiny message made to stand out on the red stripes which divide the space.

Barbara Kruger Biography, 2009 ROGALLERY.COM 

Sarich, J.A, updated by Knes, M. Mercantilism, 

Gokcen, S. (2008, May 24). Gap Introduces Artist Editions T-shirts