The sensational exhibition on Ron Mueck organized by the Cartier Foundation in Paris in 2013 largely contributed to shedding light on hyper-realistic sculpture and artists. This genre of sculpture flirts with scale modeling, the tradition of wax figurines as well as cinema set design. Hyperrealistic sculptures mimic human bodies with the utmost level of details such as nails, veins, beauty spots, hairs and eyelashes.
Ron Mueck, Boy
They are generally very unsettling and draw on our voyeuristic instinct since they offer us a unique opportunity to indulge our often repressed desire to stare at people and observe their intimacy.
1. Duane Hanson
Duan Hanson is an American hyperrealistic sculptor born in 1925. He strongly influenced an entire generation of artists such as Ron Mueck. Beyond the perfect representation of bodies, Duane Hanson’s sculptures tackle the society issues of his time. Human condition and social violence are the recurrent central themes among the 144 pieces he created throughout his career using “life casting” technique. This technique consists in creating molds directly on live models through the process of applying stripes of plaster on their skin covered with Vaseline lotion. Body parts are assembled afterwards and then painted on with oil or acrylic in order to reach the desired hyperrealist effect. Duan Hanson then accessorises his sculptures with clothes and all kind of objects.
In the 1960, he created visually impacting sculptures around the Vietnam war, but afterward he turned to a more subtle criticism of society. The sculpture entitled “Supermarket lady” in 1970 represents the turning point of his production. Duane Hanson then turned to the criticism of American consumption society and the illusion of happiness through materialistic possession.
Queenie II, 1988
2. Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck is very likely the most famous representative of hyper-realistic sculptures today: born in Australia with German origins, he started his career as a puppeteer maker for movies. It is only in 1966 that he turned definitely to fine arts after having being introduced to Charles Saatchi by his mother-in-law who was also an artist.
Made of resin, fiber glass, and silicon -among other materials- , Ron Mueck toys with scales and creates sculptures which realism grabs visitor’s attention immediately. Over or undersized, Mueck’ sculptures plunge spectators in the intimacy of his models’ bodies with a certain fascination for morbidity. Represented without artefacts, bodies are exhibited in all their material texture and gravity, which can be rather disturbing. Ron Mueck’s body of work revolves around solitude, vulnerability, alienation, while also tackling universal themes like birth, death and old age.
Wild man, 2005
3. Maurizio Cattelan
Maurizio Cattelan is one of the superstars of the contemporary art world today. Born in Padua in 1960, he is the epitome of the troublemaker artist: fiercely ironic and thought-provoking, his work toys with the codes of the art market itself. No wonder that his inspirational artists are Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.
Maurizio Cattelan’ hyper-realistic sculptures are essentially tragicomic and call power and institutions into question in all its forms: from Hitler as a little boy kneeling in a praying attitude to Pope John-Paul II crashed by a meteorite, and the white letters of “HOLLYWOOD” placed above the biggest dump in Sicily. Maurizio Cattelan has a pretty acute sense of humor and the message of his work is rather disillusioned: life is a prank. Though subsersive, the artist remains rather discreet in his personal life and announced his retirement from the art world a couple of years ago in order to dedicate himself to ToiletPaper, the photography newspaper he founded. In 2011, the Guggenheim museum of New York organized a retrospective show of his work.
La Nona Ora, 2000
4. Patricia Piccinini
Patricia Piccinini is an Australian artist among the most renowned of her generation. Her hyperrealist sculptures explore the relationships between science, nature, art and environment. Her sculptures are fascinating because they represent monstruous creatures coming out of her imagination with highly realistic effects. These creatures are mutants resulting of biotechnological experiences. Through her work, she questions the notions of genes, normality and mutation, at the crossroad between men and animals.
Her sculptures are made of silicon, plastic and organic material such as human or animal hairs, and revolve around the topics of childhood and maternity.
New Born 2010
5. Sam Jinks
Sam Jinks is an Australian sculptor which work talks about emotional vulnerability. His hyper-realistic sculptures are made of silicon, fiberglass, resin. He adds to that, biological elements such as human hairs, reinforces the hyperrealistic effect. His works represent private moments which throws spectators in the models’ intimacy, even more so than they are naked most of the time. Often represented with their eyes closes, or looking elsewhere, they seem to be the accomplice of spectators’ voyeuristic instinct. Sam Jinks was exhibited at Venice Biennal and at numerous museums in Australia and around the world.
Still Life (Pieta) 2007
6. Marc Sijan
Marc Sijan is an American artist born in Serbia. He is strangely more famous in Europe, Asia and Middle-East than in United States. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he continued his studies in sciences, which led him to thoroughly study anatomy and biology. He can work on his life-size hyper-realistic sculptures for month. And he based on pictures or real models. Marc Sijan is fascinated with Michelangelo and his sense of anatomy. However, unlike Michelangelo, Marc Sijan does not praise perfect bodies. On the contrary, he represents physical imperfections of his models. Once the mold is finished, Marc Sijan applies 25 layers of paintings and varnish to reach the effect of depth and translucency he desires. Marc Sijan has taken part in over 50 exhibitions in the world.
The embrace, 2012
7. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu are two controversial Chinese artists known for their work with extreme material such as human fat tissues, living animal, and baby cadavers. Their art questions perception, death and human condition. Their hyper-realistic sculptures are often very unsettling and intense. Angel is a sculpture representing a winged old man fallen from the sky. The artists’ work also mock figures of power. They questions belief, value system, our social conditioning and relationship between West and East.
8. John de Andrea
John de Andrea is an American artist specialized in hyper-realistic sculptures -of the same generation than Duane Hanson- who participated to every international art events dedicated to hyperrealism in the world. Among others, he was present at the Documenta V of Kassel. He works with polyester and fiberglass, and more recently with bronze. John de Andrea’s work talk about the world of appearances and the game we play in society. Through the representation of people frozen in time, he seems to say that we are all puppets.