BY Collier Schorr in Reviews | 08 JUN 95
Featured in
Issue 23

Sarah Lucas

BY Collier Schorr in Reviews | 08 JUN 95

Every morning, before the gallery opens, Sarah Lucas' instructions are followed: a hot dog must be boiled and bunned and an egg must be fried and slapped on a table; a three minute loop of sunny-side-up salutations for each and every consumer viewing. These chores, which thicken the air and sprinkle the wall with grease, engage a gallery worker in the act of making a part of her piece, Fucked (1995), of labouring over a hot pan, of labouring over a slick joke.

Perhaps you too felt it when Jack Nicholson was sniffing around Jessica Lange's tangy blonde bombshell in The Postman Always Rings Twice. 'What can I get for you today?' she drawls, eternally bent over. You want to fuck her on the kitchen table, right? Like they do in the movies. So Lucas builds one for you. Bitch (1995) is a simple construction: a small enamel-top table with a T-shirt stretched over it. Beneath the table, under the T-shirt, two melons hang, a triple E-cup, as the surface and the body bend over to accommodate your moves. She's bending over constantly ­ begging to be bent over. This is the way Lucas has designed her. A perfect portrait of what it looks like to be the object of desire; so focused, that the object can be anything. But of course, there's nothing there. Like a blow-up doll or a Henry Moore, it's just a collection of shapes and, in Lucas' case, crude symbols that hint at human architecture.

And what of this architecture? How easily we buy into the construction of the female body. Bitch is only a woman because I want it to be a woman. Because I'm so easily tempted, because I've been trained to tempt easily. Its formal concerns, the geometry of its sculpture, its wholeness in parts, endows those parts with meaning. Thus melons equal breasts and a vacuum-packed pink slice of de-boned trout equals vagina; or melons and fish equal the appearance of female, the wish to be female ­ even the fear of being female. The table is as much an inflated picture of every desire that has ever been placed on the female body as it is the panic felt by some young women when their bodies begin to grow.

Consider Sarah Lucas' thin banana-yellow table legs on wheels and the limb that Robert Gober delivered through the legs of a well-disguised woman. Sex, birth or rape are carefully orchestrated acts; great fakes that survive because of the memories they prompt. Gober's well-defined leg ­ a tidy-haired tube of jaundiced wax shod in a smart brown brogue ­ is a man who has suddenly found himself afloat in a nether world of femininity. Lucas' legs on wheels are a travelling totem of ritual fantasies; a stack of surly testimonies. Bitch is a headless heap barrelling silently through a semiotic explosion, Supersensible, like the name of her show; useful and friendly. Across from the discreet, coquettish table is a soiled mattress which runs a few feet up the wall; a squatter's surrogate sofa. Vegetables approximating the sex parts of a cartoon couple are embedded in the bed, a mélange of would be postures, of boredom and melancholy, of lost luck and youth. The mattress is presented, in the indefectible Gladstone Gallery, as a precocious statue; but really, it is the remains of a performance wherein Lucas maps out Vito Acconci's Seedbed and invents the dregs of another invisible spectacle.

Lucas' tables, her skillet and her turbulent stained mattress stomp as poetically as Gober's pristine cots and daydream dogbeds sigh. Her sculptures detail a resistant heterosexuality, its clichés and traps; a crass Shelley Winters to Gober's American Tragedy Montgomery Clift. For every lovely fantasy of domestic sadness that Gober crafts, Lucas answers with an almost-clever sarcasm; and it is through the former that the latter's sculptural witticisms access a curious politic, one not un-homosexual but undeniably and most compellingly straight.

Here is evidence of Lucas' heavy hand, that big boot in your face, that parade of copped poses and bravado which sinks relatively light objects into the floor as if they were Richard Serra ephemera. The media-varied casts of clenched fists, Get a Hold of This (1994-5), in the position of someone about to protest, look as if the artist has cloned herself into an army of curious onlookers, examining the decay of their own bodies. Although a bit packaged (they even sit on boxes as if announcing their portability) and certainly the least captivating of the sculptures, the arms are perfect props that further construct the artist's alter ego. Through this character, Sarah Lucas probes heterosexuality with the same curiosity and dis-investment as Gober, making her heterosexuality a kind of spin-off from his homosexuality. A generation apart from Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer and their focus on a (textual) rupture, the we against the them, it's the desperate dependence that makes her the constant underdog and her heterosexuality an unbearable and inescapable burden. Lucas, the well-studied butch, makes objects that glue men and women together, often in the most ill-at-ease positions. Her pairs of arms which don't hold scoff at the other work, scoff at the space, at the visitors walking by, at the unseen sprawled bodies and at you on top of the table, humping away at your favourite dream.

Collier Schorr is an artist and photographer based in New York, USA.