Sarah Lucas’ new sculptures have us on the edge of our seats
The British artist discusses her latest series of seductive sitters which sit on, hug, and suffocate different chair designs
‘I just choose chairs that appeal to me, and it’s quite a random thing really as there’s no predicting what will come along,’ Sarah Lucas tells Wallpaper*. She’s discussing the chairs she lets her amorphous sitters with elongated limbs and globular breasts occupy in her concurrent exhibitions, which opened New York’s Gladstone Gallery and Sadie Coles HQ in London.
The chairs submit to Lucas’s bronze or wool-stuffed pantyhose seducers, who clinch, caress, and conquer the benches’ erected spines and inviting laps. In fact, it is the chairs’ bygone human traits that render their helplessness towards the persistent critters — newest sculptures from her ongoing Bunnies series — puzzlingly enticing and vigorous. Also note the allure of high heels (she has a shoe collection on hand) the artist put onto her dashing posers. Accents of power and posture, their sharp heels contrast with the bodies’ soft textures, a cautionary tale for assumers of ease and malleability beneath twisted and knotted humanoids that, according to Lucas, ‘somehow have found their way onto the chairs.’
An original member of the Young British Artists clan, Lucas started making unabashedly laid-back figures with stuffed and contorted pantyhose soon after her rise to fame in the early 1990s. Then, their relationship to chairs remained more utilitarian and timid, a riff on the sitter role art history had granted to ‘proper’ female subjects. Nuds, which put more abstracted and freestyle knotted forms onto pedestals, emerged in the late 2000s, and constituted an important part of Lucas’s first American survey, Au Naturel, at New Museum in New York last year.
‘A fundamental dimension of sculpture,’ she explains, ‘is how things join together and support themselves in position’ in simultaneous shows on both sides of the pond. Serpentine figures pull references from Nuds’s carefree assembly of the body: limbs stretch to extremity, hinting phallic erection or architectural epitome; breasts (‘Having tits doesn’t always make you a woman,’ Lucas underlines) blossom from one another, multiplying into a bouquet of buds or bumpy highlands.
Corporate Modernist sleekness of the New York show’s chairs have ‘a certain masculinity,’ Lucas admits. They seem to emerge from a manager’s carpeted room in a Midtown office or an ill-lit waiting room of a dentist, captured by stilettoed ‘honeys,’ sneaking through their hollows and clasping onto their stiff skins. ‘The chair does come first,’ she answers about her order of building a give-and-take, in which numbing malleability of the body comforts and defies the stillness of a seat. §