The exhibit Ron Mueck at The Andy Warhol Museum features a handful of figural sculptures. The bodies aren't those of gods and goddesses, matinee idols or supermodels, swanlike ballerinas or strapping warriors. But Mueck's sculptures will give you goosebumps anyway.
These mixed-media works have goosebumps. They also have blemishes, wrinkles and moles. Their stomachs droop, their skin is splotchy and their muscles sag. They're heart-stoppingly, jaw-droppingly ordinary, just like us. Except for one thing that prevents them for being mistaken for living, breathing creatures.
With one exception -- a pair of cat-sized lovers shivering prone on a pedestal -- Mueck's brood are huge, looming over us even when they're lying in a bed. We can get right up next to them, close enough to feel for the pulse we're sure they must possess. But the gulf between us and them is impassable.
This makes them thrilling and terrifying. The giggle of delight that begins when you walk into a room to peer at a giant naked guy squatting on a chair can quickly transform into one of discomfort. For many, some, or maybe just me, newborns wet from their squeeze through the birth canal are terrifying enough at loaf-of-bread proportions. A squalling infant the size of a VW van, with a creepily purple umbilical cord more like an element of a ventilation system than a body part, makes Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike's most over-the-top flick seem like a Saturday-morning cartoon.
It's difficult to process one's reaction to being confronted by something exactly like oneself, yet magnified or condensed. We're dwarfed by the size of these figures, diminished by them, cowed and cowering. Alongside the wee ones, we're stirred to responsibility, but it's not a reaction colored with sympathy. You don't want to scoop them into your lap and warm them up with a cuddle; you want to throw a blanket on them and move on with a clear conscience.
What we're experiencing isn't confined to the physical, and it's not limited to the time spent within the museum. We've all felt big with happiness, swollen with pride when we know we've done good. We've also all shrunk under assaults to our self-esteem, crumpling when insecurities rise to the surface.
Mueck, an internationally acclaimed artist who lives in London, merges these internal and external senses of proportion and throws them in our faces. Nothing is solved; we leave the exhibit unsettled and unsure. What he's stirred up we can carry with us, and it might make us ask why what's outside of us can affect our inner size.
Mueck may be the father of immensely overblown humans, but we're all bigger people for seeing them.
Ron Mueck at The Andy Warhol Museum The Andy Warhol Museum. 117 Sandusky St., North Side. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org