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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Sarah Lucas

b. 1962, United Kingdom

Sarah Lucas is a British artist known for bawdy, mischievous and confrontational sculpture, photography and installation. She arrived on the English art scene via the 1988 group show, Freeze, alongside several other young British artists coming out of Goldsmiths, University of London—among them the curator/artist Damien Hirst.

Lucas is a feminist who uses raunchy and morbid humour, irony and sexual puns to explore everyday English culture and sexual and psychological tensions. Her works reflect and satirise misogynist norms in general life, tabloids and pornography. In some of her earliest work (from 1991) this was done through a series of enlarged spreads of extracts from tabloid newspapers that exemplified seedy working-class male attitudes towards women.

In her photographic self-portraits—starting with the seminal Eating a Banana (1990)—she adopts a confrontational macho or 'butch' appearance while acting as an object of male desire through sexual euphemisms and suggestive body language. Sometimes this involves produce such as an uncooked chicken, fried eggs, bananas or fish acting as substitutes for male or female sexual organs. The same principle is extended to her installations, including Au Naturel (1994), in which two melons and a bucket alongside two oranges and a cucumber on an old mattress are used to represent a heterosexual couple in bed.

Alongside perishable produce, a common early motif in the artist's work was cigarettes. Whether the cigarettes act as the material of her work—as in Self Portrait with Cigarettes (2000)—or are seen in hand during one of her more vulnerable self-portrait photographs—such as Human Toilet Revisited (1998)—they are a strong presence in her art. They are a means of asserting independence and introversion, and are crucial to Lucas for art-making. They are a conjoined symbol of sex and death—a psychological paradox that fascinates the artist.

This use of commonplace items—from cigarettes to household furniture (including a freezer)—is typical of Lucas' sculptural practice. Following in the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp, who pioneered the use of the 'ready-made', the renegade Lucas sees the ironic and euphemistic potential in certain everyday objects. Her 1996 Is Suicide Genetic?, made from a toilet bearing writing, may be seen as a direct nod to Duchamp's 1917 Fountain.

Combinations of such ready-made items were sometimes used by Lucas as stand-ins for fragmented or whole bodies, as in Bitch (1995), where a table, T-shirt, two melons and a vacuum-packed smoked fish mimic a female body. Lucas positioned these ambiguous forms to resemble parts or the whole of the human body in sexual poses and emphasise organs associated with sex and desire.

A hallmark of her more recent sculpture (since 2009) has been the fleshy, human-like, long tubular forms made with stuffed tights and wire. These are arranged provocatively to reinforce their representation of sexualised female limbs. The way they twist and curve, sometimes engulfing themselves, is evocative of an intimate embrace. Lucas first began experimenting with the stuffed stockings in her 'Bunny' series (started in 1997).

Lucas' ambiguous forms are now often combined with common, art-irreverent materials like cinder blocks, merino sheep's jaws and ceramic toilets. In constructions such as Bike (2011), the limb-like tubular forms intertwine with these objects to form twisted corporeal parodies—caricatures that mimic misogynist sexual stereotypes.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

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Margot by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasMargot, 2015 Plaster, cigarette, freezer
116 x 202 x 87 cm
Sadie Coles HQ
Chicken Knickers by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasChicken Knickers, 1997 C-type print
42.5 x 42.5 cm
Sadie Coles HQ
Tit-Cat Down by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasTit-Cat Down, 2015 Bronze
69.5 x 90 x 35 cm
Sadie Coles HQ
Floppy Toilet Twa by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasFloppy Toilet Twa, 2017 Cast resin, fridge
124 x 47.5 x 48 cm
Sadie Coles HQ
Sucky Thing by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasSucky Thing, 2011 tights, fluff, wire, ceramic toilet
69 x 35 x 60 cm
Two Rooms
Bike by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasBike, 2011 tights, fluff, wire, ceramic toilet, merino sheep jaw, stone, concrete blocks
64 x 69 x 208 cm
Two Rooms
Panoramadrama by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasPanoramadrama, 2011 tights, fluff, wire, ceramic toilets, concrete blocks
60 x 107 x 61 cm
Two Rooms
Galaxia by Sarah Lucas contemporary artwork Sarah LucasGalaxia, 2011 Tights, fluff, merino sheep skull, concrete blocks, MDF
149 x 44 x 44 cm
Two Rooms

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Family Guy at Simon Lee Gallery, London
Closed
3–20 October 2018 Group Exhibition Family Guy Simon Lee Gallery, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Nudes at Sadie Coles HQ, London
Closed
11 April–26 May 2018 Group Exhibition Nudes Sadie Coles HQ, Davies Street
Contemporary art exhibition, Sarah Lucas, Spirit of Ewe at Two Rooms, Auckland
Closed
3 March–8 April 2011 Sarah Lucas Spirit of Ewe Two Rooms, Auckland

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Ocula Conversation Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Founder, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo started collecting contemporary art in 1992, after graduating from Torino University, where she studied business and economics. She began her collection with four works from the late-1950s and early-1960s by Italian artists: Carla Accardi, Tano Festa, Mario Merz and Salvatore Scarpitta. 'I enjoyed the idea of...

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In Related Press

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Sarah Lucas disrupts Franz West’s Tate Modern survey in off-kilter meeting of art provocateurs Related Press Sarah Lucas disrupts Franz West’s Tate Modern survey in off-kilter meeting of art provocateurs Wallpaper* : 19 March 2019

The first posthumous UK retrospective of Austrian artist Franz West has surfaced at London's Tate Modern following a run at the Centre Pompidou. A chronological compendium of work spans the artist's anarchic career, curated by Mark Godfrey and Christine Macel with scenography by British artist Sarah Lucas.This month, West is infecting London at a...

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Sarah Lucas Squashes Rodin’s Idealism Related Press Sarah Lucas Squashes Rodin’s Idealism Hyperallergic : 1 August 2017

The British sculptor Sarah Lucas is facing off against Auguste Rodin at the Legion of Honor museum. Sarah Lucas: Good Muse is the latest in a series of exhibitions celebrating and contextualizing the work of Rodin, who died 100 years ago this year. Preceding Good Muse was an exhibition by Urs Fischer, which pivoted on a discussion about the...

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Body talk: YBA Sarah Lucas meets modern master Auguste Rodin Related Press Body talk: YBA Sarah Lucas meets modern master Auguste Rodin Wallpaper* : 18 July 2017

A battle of the gaze is on at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, pitting an old dead French man against a punky British woman. The artists in question are Auguste Rodin, the modern master known for his sensuous, eroticised studies of the female form, and Sarah Lucas, the subversive YBA feminist, known for her androgynous pantyhose...

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Private Territories: Room and House Work Related Press Private Territories: Room and House Work The Quietus : 2 March 2017

In The Poetics of Space, first translated into English in 1964, Gaston Bachelard wrote: 'a house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.' This seminal phenomenological study investigates the significance of intimate spaces which govern our dreams and emotions. Bachelard scrutinises the rooms...

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In Related Video

Sarah Lucas in conversation with Don Brown, film by Julian Simmons: UK at the Venice Biennale Related Video & Audio Sarah Lucas in conversation with Don Brown, film by Julian Simmons: UK at the Venice Biennale Film by Julian Simmons : 12 May 2015

Sadie Coles HQ is delighted to announce the release of a new film — specially commissioned by the British Council - marking Sarah Lucas's representation of Britain at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Shot and produced by Julian Simmons, the thirteen-minute documentary will be broadcast by The Guardian from Wednesday 6th May, to coincide with the...

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