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The “drinking man’s Rachel Whiteread” at Tate Liverpool.Sarah Lucas may not be the most talked about of the Young British Artists but she has always been one of the most important. At the beginning of the 90s, while women were trading shoulder pads for Wonderbras and cocktails for pints of lager, Sarah Lucas swapped feminist theory for Page Three.
Lucas challenged the street slang used to describe women by turning it into physical forms. She replaced anger and embarrassment with humour, portraying breasts as melons or fried eggs, catching public attention with hard-hitting sculpture and spreads from The Sun. In making physical representations of sexual slang and celebrating stories about rampant dwarves she moved the discussion further along then any amount of protest art.
Sarah Lucas is the “drinking man’s” Rachel Whiteread. Walking around her survey show at Tate Liverpool you can clearly make out the core materials and traditions of her art - concrete, cardboard, resin, steel and found objects; the cool, minimal associations of which are tinged with humour and sexual innuendo. Her use of animal carcasses, fish, fruit and veg rotting on top of these surfaces recalls still lifes, while she pays homage to Duchamp with toilets and bicycles.
Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab (detail) and Self Portrait with Fried Eggs (detail)
This is not a slick, ordered show and doesn’t offer a chronological overview of Lucas’ career, but it does demonstrate how good an artist she is. For example, within her sculptural compositions there are extremes between her use of materials (a chicken and bra stretched and tied to each end of a steel-sprung bed in Bondage Up Yours, 2000) but nothing is clumsy or unresolved. She knows exactly how much information to give, which angles suggest dominance or subservience, and how far apart or close objects should be to create or emphasize tensions out of otherwise inanimate items. And it’s interesting to observe her decisions about scale, with photographs ranging from A3 (Is Suicide Genetic? 1996) to billboard size (Complete Arsehole, 1993).
The show includes hits from her career, like Two Fried Eggs And Kebab (1992) and Au Naturel (1994) - a stained mattress where a girl is represented using a metal bucket and two melons, and a boy with a cucumber and a pair of oranges. But there’s also the chance to see earlier work like The Law, a concrete cast of a television with “THE LAW” carved into the screen. It makes you realise how integral these works are to the contemporary art of the past 15 years.
The only downside to this show is that it just makes you want more.
Gemma De Cruz
Sarah Lucas is at Tate Liverpool until 15 January 05.
Read members' comments related to this feature.
comment by moorland dragon Dec 6, 2005The Turner Prize winner was bought at B+Q.
comment by synogenes Dec 4, 2005What's funny about a lot of it is the presumption that getting the observer to contribute most of the value somehow absolves the artist of any responsibility for putting the effort in.
I've seen countless exhibitions of bits of nothing much, raggedly assembled with pretentious titles, displaying the artistic skill of the average adolescent.
If the observer provides so much of the meaning, the artist can get away with contributing less providing they can convince the public that there is something of value there. We all like a challenge and if someone gives you a five foot canvas of red paint with the statement that if you can't see it, you're uncultured, you'll find something. If you're honest, you'll have a laugh. If you're creative, you can fill the talent gap left by the artist.
Has anyone come across those wonderful spoof exhibitions that were organised a few years ago with kids' paintings - it could be apocryphal but art critics attended it, lauded the newly discovered genii, then threatened to sue when all was revealed.
You have to have a laugh at this stuff though.
comment by flyingtwinkle Dec 4, 2005modern art is never explicit it is vague and interpreted according to the mood
comment by moorland dragon Nov 16, 2005fair enough
comment by hightownknockout Nov 16, 2005M Dragon - don't want to offend, but I thoroughly enjoy pretentious galleries. I love pretentious art (if there's no pretence, it's almost cerainly not art). I love people pontificating and/or going round tutting and saying 'my five year old'/'the five year old I babysit could do this.' I love being thoroughly snobby about this and loudly talking about the whole experince in a pub afterwards.
I don't like kids in galleries however. Especially school parties.
comment by moorland dragon Nov 16, 2005I really don't want to seem like some sort of snob but...modern art is generaly bullshit which is taken in by pretentious upper middle class wierdo people who think they're intellectuals.
I have experienced this first hand... I was convinced that I had walked into a exhibition of school projects, but then I spotted a canvass covered in two different shades of red on sale for £5000. (*#!!@?#@*!)
Funnily enough, I noticed that two weeks prior to that a five year old, who I was babysitting, painted a painting almost exactly the same as that...but blue. That kid must be a genius!!!
Personaly I think it's mostly a big con or created by people who want to express themselves through talents which they do not actualy have but are disillusioned enough to think that they do.
Disagree if you will, because I don't actualy care if this offends anyone.
comment by catabolic_kid Nov 15, 2005I haven't really taken an interest in the art world for some time - not since I left Art School in fact.
A lot of people seem to say that contemporary art is cold or pretentious but I think they, whoever they are, have taken Damien Hirst's work to be epitome of the contemporary period.
I went to the Tate Modern not so long ago (LIES. You mean last December) and I was struck by how eclectic and jagged everything was but it didn't really strike me as funny. A lot of it seemed to be physically made of junk and waste and rubbish and other "challenging" materials. Maybe it was the arrangement of the gallery but it all felt rather deadpan. Which I guess some people might find funny.
I left the place with a huge throbbing headache like there a sheet of white film pulsing behind my eyes.
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