The final years of the 1980s were groundbreaking on the global scale, due to the appearance of the Young British Artists. Although never officially a group, the artists labeled with this widely accepted term were mostly Goldsmiths BA Fine Art graduates who started appropriating shock tactics and showed bold, subversive and rebellious works in unconventional places. They had been supported and promoted by the advertising mage Charles Saatchi and were dominant on the British art during the 1990s.
One of them was no other than established artist Sarah Lucas, known for particularly humorous body and socially engaged work expressed through media ranging from photography to collage and found objects. In order to honor Lucas’ three-decades-long practice, The New Museum in New York decided to host the first extensive survey of the artist’s work in the United States titled Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel.
Throughout the years, Sarah Lucas managed to position herself as one of the most important proponents of her generation. It was a long and tough journey since she started exhibiting in a highly conservative decade marked by the rule of Margaret Thatcher.
Nevertheless, the artist stood out with her peculiar, provocative and dilettante based aesthetic; she explored and still does the notions of erotic desire, the private and public domains of the human body and other issues from specific feminist perspective.
Therefore, the upcoming exhibition tends to reexamine her oeuvre in regards to the heritage of Surrealism and contextualize it in accordance with contemporary moment by underlining how these works encourage a dialog about the constant intensity between gender and power structures.
The selection covers more than one hundred and fifty works in photography, sculpture, and installation across the three main floors of the New Museum. The early sculptures of Sarah Lucas from the 1990s made out of human body parts and enlarged spreads from tabloid newspapers will be followed by the photographic self-portraits and biomorphic sculptures such as stuffed-stocking Bunnies (1997–ongoing) and NUDS (2009–ongoing), the Penetralia series (2008–ongoing). Parts of her installations at the Freud Museum in London (2000) and the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2015) will also be shown.
The highlight of the exhibition will be new sculptural works done for this particular occasion and they will be presented on the New Museum’s Fourth Floor.
Led by the idea to once again underline the ingenuity of her practice, the curators Massimiliano Gioni and Margot Norton decided to deal with the specificity of art historical references, cultural stereotypes, and tabloid culture. By borrowing the title of the exhibition from the sculpture Lucas produced in 1994, they wanted to refer to traditional paintings of female nude figures in order to speculate the possibility of a natural state and accentuate Lucas’s ongoing criticism of the puritanism, conformism, and misogyny.
Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel will be open at the New Museum in New York from 26 September 2018 until 20 January 2019.
Editors’ Tip: Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel
Sarah Lucas, having emerged in the UK in the late 1980s alongside artists including Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, gained notoriety for her bawdy and irreverent sculptures. Often using found objects, Lucas provokes viewers with works that challenge our notions of gender, sexuality, and identity. Featuring eight essays and an interview with the artist, this volume reveals the breadth and complexity of Lucas's work in sculpture, photography, and installation over the past three decades.
Featured image: Sarah Lucas - Edith, 2015. Plaster, cigarette, toilet, and table, 54 ¾ x 73 5/8 x 38 3/4 in (139 x 187 x 98.5 cm). Private collection; Get Hold of This, 1994. Plastic, 14 1⁄8 x 15 3⁄4 x 11 1⁄8 in (36 x 40 x 28 cm). Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London; Bunny Gets Snookered, Exhibition View. All images courtesy The New Museum.