Museum  October 2, 2018  Chandra Noyes

Sarah Lucas Lets it All Hang Out in "Au Naturel"

© Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Sarah Lucas, Au Naturel, 1994.

© Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Sarah Lucas, Self-portrait with Fried Eggs, 1996. C-print.

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.

© Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Sarah Lucas, Edith, 2015. Plaster, cigarette, toilet, and table.

Born in 1962, Lucas was part of the 1988 group exhibition Freeze that took place in an empty London Port Authority building. This exhibition has come to mark the beginning of the Young British Artists (YBAs), a movement including Lucas and her contemporaries, including Angus Fairhurst, Damien Hirst, and Tracey Emin. Known for their unconventional materials, shocking art and entrepreneurial edge, they took the art world by storm in the 1990s, and many have since established themselves as blue-chip artists.

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 
Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 
Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 
Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 
Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 
Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 
Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, 2018. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. 

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel is at the New Museum through January 20, 2019.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.