No Cigar?


Bill Clinton isn’t the only one with a “lower half problem,” as Japanese newspapers call it. Sarah Lucas makes art that indulges in adolescent gratifications, self-destructive impulses, and salacious innuendo. But the naughty London artist–whose last show included a table wearing a T-shirt weighted with two melons–makes no bones about it.

Her current exhibition is titled “The Old In Out,” perhaps in response to Damien Hirst’s comment, “There’s always that bit missing in Sarah’s work. There’s no way out, no way in… That’s what makes her so brilliant.” The show opens with the cast-plaster lower half of a female body, lounging on a table with a perky cigarette protruding–more inadequate than obscene–from its twat. A photo work nearby makes a crude cock-and-balls joke with crumpled beer cans. “I always try to make penises when I can’t think of a better thing to do,” the artist explains.

Lucas’s works don’t just act out scatological clichés–they visualize libidinous urges. A chair morphs into a vestigial lower half, like a psychotropic echo of the cast figure, while a can of beer ejaculates foam in a photograph of the androgynous artist. The show’s title piece, an installation of toilets cast in translucent amber polyurethane (like beer, like pee), plays a rude Duchampian joke on Rachael Whiteread’s more respectable casts and then heads in other directions: one toilet is grimily real, another is a whorl of cigarettes.

The Freudian cigarette goes berserk in Lucas’s grand installation of two charred cars: the body of one and the front seats of the other are resurfaced with row upon row of reeking Marlboros. Lucas’s smutty jokes and double entendres play off each other in a way that is grandly coherent without being explicit, satisfying without quite making sense, and–hiding her art’s dirty little secret of formal rigor–not nearly as sophomoric as they might seem.