For the past 30 years, British sculptor Sarah Lucas has been making waves and making audiences chuckle with her dark sense of humor and unique use of materials. Bringing together important works from across her career, the New Museum presents the first American survey of Lucas’ work. Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel includes more than 150 works in photography, sculpture, and installation, taking up three floors of the New Museum.
Lucas uses playful interpretations of the body, often with familiar materials, to make more serious commentary about gender, sexual identity, and social norms. Her sculptures are at once boldly confrontational, humorous and deeply personal. Take the exhibition’s titular piece, Au Naturel (1994, above), which consists of a mattress, melons, oranges, cucumber, and water bucket. An immature visual joke about anatomy gives way to a sentimental reflection on the passage of lives, our loves, and our aging bodies.
Lucas’ Self-portrait with Fried Eggs (1996) plays a similar angle. The artist’s smoldering, unwavering, gaze seems at odds with the freshly fried eggs placed on her breasts. Sending mixed messages about her seriousness, the viewer is unsure whether to laugh, come hither, or cower. Lucas’ work, particularly those that relate to the body, sex, and gender, remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, but not to deny our powerful natures, either.