If you’ve graduated from art school some time this century, then there’s a fair chance Sarah Lucas has influenced your work. The distinctly ironic anti-aesthetic of the YBAs’ (Lucas, perhaps, the brashest of them all) has permeated art schools the world over. With her liberal dexterity, Lucas paved the way for broke budding artists who no longer needed to decide on one discipline. Dissolved is the university model where students choose a department and hone their craft for four years (though some still exist), making way for a new, less commodified, transdisciplinary approach, which is now so commonplace. Nearly 20 years on from her seminal work ‘Au Naturel’, does Lucas’ work still have the potential to inspire and incite critical discourse?
A whole floor of Sadie Coles HQ has been handed over to Sarah Lucas for the next year. Titled SITUATION MAKE LOVE, this is essentially a project space where Lucas will curate her own work (with the promise of involving other artists), altering and adding to the installation throughout the year. Currently comprising recent versions of retrospective works, the show is a capsule of her trademark sexually and politically-loaded sculpture
Originally made in 2000, ‘Priere de Toucher’ (‘Please Touch’) is an image of Lucas’ nipple peaking out of the strategically placed hole in her t-shirt. It has been blown up, mirrored and plastered across the main wall of the gallery, creating a backdrop for the show. In front of this are ‘Make Love’ beige stockinged legs and breasts on chairs; the older, less racy sisters of her famous ‘Bunnies Get Snookered’ (97). These are not nudes, they are naked, or worse, partly naked – the former implying a kind of wholesome honesty that might only be discussed with a straight face, the latter carrying connotations of embarrassment, of social consciousness and of being caught out.
Sitting on cinder block plinths are her ‘Hard Nuds’; smaller iron and bronze varients on the wadding-stuffed ‘Nuds’ that toured the country in the British Art Show last year. These biomorphic forms, a nod to British modernists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, feel far more academic than sexually provocative. The act of taking one idea and repeatedly exploring it through different mediums, displays a disciplined methodology that echoes the old school approach to making. The result is an accomplished and considered body of work, albeit clean and inert.
Perhaps what’s missing from this exhibition is Lucas’ ad hoc approach to living and decomposing materials. Much of her early work utilized foodstuff, such as eggs and fruit, which had to be replaced regularly throughout exhibitions. The nature of these organic elements spoke so beautifully of the body, itself a living dying thing. Though the structure of this show lends itself perfectly to the ephemeral, a trick seems to have been missed.
There’s no denying Lucas is a formidable artist and a powerful female voice as her work unrelentingly exposes our sexual egos. So if you want to see the work of a living luminary, this is a show well worth a visit.
Sarah Lucas’ SITUATION MAKE LOVE, will present new installations at Sadie Coles in August and November 2012.