Eleven years ago, even folks who claimed not to like "art" showed up in droves to stare at Ron Mueck's eerily lifelike sculptures at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. They stepped forward and squinted to see wrinkles and wayward gray hairs on teeny, tiny human statues; they stepped back to grasp the enormity of Mueck's larger-than-life creations.
The 2007 Mueck exhibition shattered attendance records for the Modern, and it's almost certain to do so again, more than a decade later. The blockbuster "New Works by Ron Mueck" opens February 16 and headlines the Modern's 2018 exhibition lineup.
The London-based Australian artist's figures are extraordinarily realistic, except in scale — they are always depicted much smaller or larger than life. Fort Worth is so enamored of his work that Untitled (Seated Woman), 1999, based on his wife's grandmother, remains one of the most popular works in the Modern's permanent collection.
The artist is fresh off another record-setting exhibit last summer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — it was that museum's most popular exhibition of all time. His Fort Worth showcase, which opens February 16, will include new works, two of which are making their North American debut.
"Drawing upon memory and reality, Mueck's lifelike sculptures are instantly relatable on a human level," senior curator Andrea Karnes explains of his appeal. "Because he often portrays easily identifiable experiences ... we immediately understand the situation through compassion."
Here's a closer look at the Mueck showcase, as well as four other big exhibitions lined up at The Modern in 2018, as described by the museum.
FOCUS: Nina Chanel Abney (January 27-March 18)
Nina Chanel Abney's paintings are visually frenetic, reflecting the fast-paced energy of life today. Her imagery refers to such diverse subjects as pop culture, world events, and art history in compositions with flattened, simplified forms. Abney's works commonly incorporate snippets of text, disembodied figures and silhouettes, and geometric abstract shapes. Themes that relate to American society, including celebrity culture, race, sexuality, and police brutality, are broached in her paintings. By touching on serious subjects in a colorful palette and graphic style, Abney's work is, as the artist states, "easy to swallow, hard to digest."
New Works by Ron Mueck (February 16-May 6)
More than a decade after the Modern hosted his record-breaking exhibition, Ron Mueck returns to the Modern for a special project showcasing six major works created between 2008 and 2018, including two sculptures making their North American debut. Mueck's figures, which can take more than a year to develop, are first modeled in clay and then cast in silicone and refined by the artist, who pays meticulous attention to detail. His calculated shifts in scale throw us off by adding an element of ambiguity between reality and artifice, the museum says.
FOCUS: Kamrooz Aram (March 31-June 17)
Spanning painting, sculpture, collage, and installation, Kamrooz Aram's work investigates the complex relationship between Western modernism and classical non-Western art. By highlighting their formal connections, he reveals the typically downplayed role that non-Western art and design have had in the development of modernism and its drive toward abstraction. Challenging the traditionally Euro-centric narrative established by art history, Aram's work sets forth to disrupt this perceived hierarchy by merging and equalizing Western and non-Western forms. The artist will present all new work for this exhibition.
Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg (June 10-September 16)
Known for his collaborations with pop icon Kanye West and fashion house Louis Vuitton, and for vibrant anime-inspired characters, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami blurs the boundaries between high and low culture, ancient and modern, East and West. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, this major retrospective features 50 paintings that span three decades of Murakami's career, from the artist's earliest mature works to his recent, monumentally scaled paintings.
Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera (October 14-January 27)
This exhibition will showcase the artist's photographs spanning the last four decades, from 1976 to the present, a small selection of sculpture, and two films. Simmons' career-long exploration of archetypal gender roles, especially women in domestic settings, is the primary subject of this exhibition and is a topic as poignant today as it was in the late 1970s, when she began to develop her mature style by using props and dolls as stand-ins for people and places.