24 August 2016 | 27 °C

Explicit Art By Sarah Lucas At Whitechapel Gallery

Explicit Art By Sarah Lucas At Whitechapel Gallery
Nice Tits
2011
Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Nice Tits 2011 Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Self-Portrait with Skull
1996
Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Self-Portrait with Skull 1996 Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Au Naturel
1994
Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Au Naturel 1994 Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Bunny Gets Snookered #1
1997
Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Bunny Gets Snookered #1 1997 Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab
1992
Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab 1992 Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

The Young British Artists (YBAs) made their name with shocking artworks. Alongside Hirst and Emin, Sarah Lucas wasn't a fan of subtlety either. Much of her work on show in this mid-career retrospective contains either allusions to, or features, sexually explicit imagery — this is not one for children.

Some of her work goes for the cheeky approach such as two eggs and a banana skin on a soiled mattress representing female genitalia, a zeppelin whose phallic shape is made obvious by an attached mechanical hand performing a masturbatory action, and a concrete set of hands making an obscene gesture. Herein lies the conundrum, it's all too obvious and designed to be shocking thus cheapening its impact.

Adjacent to these works are blown up newspaper pages highlighting the misogynistic attitudes of some tabloid papers towards women. But it's hard to take this work with the seriousness it deserves, when it's surrounded by the aforementioned light-hearted sculptures.

In some pieces, Lucas does exercise some subtlety and these are the most engaging. A Calder-like mobile with concrete attachments plays on our perceptions of what's solid, and a self portrait made of cigarettes features the artist in a contemplative pose as if pondering her choice of lifestyle. A striking coffin made of neon lights is titled 'new religion', suggesting that consumerist must-buy culture is draining the life out of us.

Though it's the sexually charged art that dominates this exhibition, Lucas is at her most powerful when exercising restraint and subtlety.

Sarah Lucas is on at Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX until 15 December. Admission is free.

Last Updated 13 July 2015

Tabish Khan

Article by Tabish Khan | 909 articles | View Profile | Twitter

Nially

Horrible... Shock for the sake of it? Where's the art in that?