Sarah Lucas, Nice Tits (2011), Copyright of the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ
English sculptor, photographer, and installation artist Sarah Lucas has long been labeled as the “wildest” member of the Young British Artists who emerged in the 1990s, with a career of pieces that has openly and aggressively challenged sexual identities, psychological states, and cultural images of the body through her evocative and often grotesque assemblages and Situations. Entitled SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble, her current retrospective at Whitechapel Gallery examines this ongoing interest in the body and its cultural reifications.
Born in 1962, Sarah Lucas is best known for her visual puns and explicit humor, her use of found objects, and particularly for her self portraits. Her first solo exhibition in 1992 was held at City Racing and grabbed the public’s attention with the title alone: Penis Nailed to a Board. Since then, she has gone on to explore the sexualized human body, emphasizing erotic yet cheap symbols such as disposable pantyhose, fruits, stained mattresses, and used toilet bowls.
A selection of Sarah Lucas’ sculptures and installations, made with found objects and everyday materials, have been included in this retrospective, specifically a series that was inspired by Hugh Heffner’s playboy mansion. In the show are art objects Lucas created to be stuffed: brownish, skinny “playboy bunnies” collapsed slouching into chairs appear as objectified, disposable, and lifeless. Another sculpture features a beige pair of legs sitting on a toilet. Almost all of the figures in the retrospective are without any heads or faces, except for the photographic portraits of Lucas herself.
Also frequently used are vegetables, especially relatively colorless ones such as butternut squash and potatoes, arranged on a metal wire grid, suggesting female breasts. The exhibition also includes her liquid-like, light-reflecting bronze representations of limbs of the human body, as well as photographs of men naked from the waist down, hiding their genitals with objects such as a beer can, a slab of meat, cookies and a milk bottle.
One of Lucas’ most iconic works on display, Au Naturel (1994), is a mattress leaning up against a crushed car. On the mattress are pieces of fruit and a bucket meant to represent the genitals of the male and female. Exhausted and collapsed, the arrangement of objects emotes emptiness, enhanced by the tipped over bucket, seemingly having lost all of its contents.
The works in the exhibition represent different parts of Lucas’ career, from its beginnings in the 1990s to the British tabloid journalism and the London premier of her bronzes. A two-volume illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, providing an overview of Lucas’ career from the 1990s until today. The exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London will continue through December 15th 2013.