08 January 2007

Rhymes with Buick

Saturday afternoon, after having a stationary bike do things to me that I didn't think could be done, Allison and I ventured out to the hinterlands to visit the Brooklyn Museum.

I'd never been before (the museum, not the borough), and after a fortuitous subway ride of easy transfers, I came out of the station smack in front of one of the most beautiful museums I've ever seen. If the Met and the new Hayden Planetarium had a kid, it'd be this. Okay, if a flying saucer crash landed into the front of the Met, it'd look like this, too, but I think it's gorgeous. The 70 degree weather and the fact that I was 15 minutes late and Allison was already 20 minutes into the admission line probably didn't hurt my mood either.

Once inside and upstairs, we realized that we'd come too late in the day (3:30) to be able to even consider waiting on the obscene line for Annie Leibovitz. But that's fine because, first, they're photos and you can see them in books, and second, I was really there for Ron Mueck. And I was not disappointed. Worth my suggested donation admission several times over. Perhaps even to the point of paying the actual suggested admission.

I'm not sure how many times in my life I've been dumbstruck by art. Not just in that it can't be captured by words, or that my reaction is so powerful that I can't speak, but work so affecting and astounding that talking, chatting, or even making eye contact about it feels wrong. It is intense, powerful stuff. (There were interesting wall notes on the subject of Realist vs. Realistic - Mueck's a realist but his work, largely by virtue of its scale, isn't realistic - that make for good application to theatre.)

There's a small part of me that says, 'Well, of course it's powerful - it's realism, so it's easier for it to be affecting than abstract art. You're looking at people emoting, not splatters and squares.' And while that might be true, Mueck is an artist of such obvious, profound skill that I can't discount it. Skill not just in lifelike craftsmanship, though his ability to make lifelike sculptures is intense and creepy and contributes to the power of his art; but also in evocative emotional power - it's one thing to craft a completely realistic human sculpture out of fiberglass, silicone, and hair, but it's an entirely different skill to imbue the figures with such intense emotional presence.

Not that pure physical skill should be discounted. The exhibition includes a documentary video of Mueck's process - looking at the figures you can't help but wonder how the heck they're made, when you're not busy being, you know, incredibly moved and affected - and to see him turn some rough clay into a perfect human figure, with pores and stretch marks and wrinkles around the knuckles - is astounding. The feet on his figures are especially impressive, and from the way other museumgoers were inspecting them, I know I'm not the only person who thought so. To realize that he sculpted them, freehand, from clay, is almost incomprehensible without the video.

I could have lingered, sat up against a column and just watched the sculptures for much longer than you can really allow yourself when you're supposed to be a grownup and, besides, there with another person. I can't say enough how strongly I recommend this exhibition.

Ron Mueck is at the Brooklyn Museum through February 4. (After that it travels to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, February–May 2007, in case you live near there.)


parabasis said...

That show was the fucking bomb diggity. But it's much more fun if you pronounce the name as if you're hurling.


Freeman said...

Saw this as well. Loved it death.