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Exhibition of new, large-format sculptures by Sarah Lucas opens at Vienna's Secession
Sarah Lucas, NOB, Installation view Secession 2013. Photo: Wolfgang Thaler.
VIENNA.- Sarah Lucas is one of the most outstanding British artists of her generation, which gained an international reputation under the heading Young British Artists in the 1990s. With the sculptures and objects she makes from readily available materials such as household objects or foodstuffs, as well as her photographic self-portraits, Sarah Lucas has developed an unmistakable visual and material language rich in art-historical references and associations. The artist reveals and simultaneously undermines sexual stereotypes with the outspoken directness of the sexual innuendo characteristic of her works. In this way Lucas always expresses deep scepticism towards social norms and the gender-specific attribution of roles, albeit with an enigmatic sense of humour.

The title of the exhibition NOB in the Secession originates from the word “knob”, which Sarah Lucas prefers to write as it is pronounced. “knob” can mean a round door handle, but colloquially, of course, it is synonymous with penis – although not quite as crude as “dick”, “cock” or “pecker” – and can also be used to refer to an idiot, while “knobs” are a term for female breasts, or to be more precise, for the nipples.

Sarah Lucas is showing a number of new, large-format sculptures made from cast concrete, bronze and industrially processed metal, which she sets into dialogue with elements produced on site. Two oversized phallic objects made from concrete rest against pedestals comprising pressed scrap vehicles, reflected on the polished bronze surfaces of two marrow sculptures of surely record dimensions.

Sarah Lucas ironically sees a “glorification of the male creative principle” in the motif of the penis, but also reflects more generally on our relationship to the human body:

“I've been musing on the penis, artwise, since the early nineties. Initially it was an antidote to all the tits and bums we seem to be bombarded with daily. It could also have something to do with the fact that I don't, personally, have one. In any case I found it to be a perfectly self-contained sculptural form, ‘pregnant’ with meaning. A totem.” (Sarah Lucas, „My phallic response to Britten’s centenary”, in: The Independent, May 1, 2013)

She also presents the female body, albeit in a fragmented, androgynous form, on two centrally positioned wallpaper images the full height of the room. On one image a pair of nipples peep out from behind two holes cut into a T-shirt, while the image on the rear side shows a figure from behind clad only in a T-shirt reading the handwritten slogan “Complete Arsehole”.

Sarah Lucas twists the familiar and confronts us with things we thought we already knew, and things we usually ignore or suppress.

The Austrian artists’ group Gelatin, friends of Sarah Lucas who have already cooperated with the artist in the past, was invited by her to design a contribution to her exhibition. Ali Janka, Tobias Urban, Florian Reither and Wolfgang Gantner from Gelatin responded to this by bringing four hens – according to the number of the artists group’s members – into the exhibition space for which they have designed a sculptural object that serves as henhouse and possibility to retreat. Essentially, the idea is that they freely roam about the space and lay eggs, in this way generating material that Lucas has been using for many years in her work, especially as fried eggs.

Sarah Lucas, born in London in 1962, lives and works in Suffolk, UK.

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