Sarah Lucas’ retrospective in Whitechapel Gallery contains a spectrum of penises (although ‘peni’ feels like the most suitable word here, or perhaps ‘penne’ like the pasta?). Peni covered by hunks of meat, peni laying in the shadows of milk bottles; peni hovering above your heads and 6 foot ones casually resting on car bodies; peni poking out of such surprising places that you’re forced to look closely to confirm that it is in fact, another penis.
There is an infinite number of puns that could come from a quick whizz (!) around the exhibition, but I feel that Sarah Lucas deserves more than that. The visual assault upon entry is astounding; the greeting of a mechanised masturbating hand and genitalia wallpapered, means that you definitely wish you could just spend the day observing visitors on CCTV to see their reactions.
'Situation' presses on the approach that art should be an agent, provocative and reactionary. Lucas draws on the historically revolutionary works of Duchamp, Moore and Bourgeois and regurgitates them into a tactile, playful, Soho circus. The exhibition, whilst predominantly focusing on the male genitalia, objectifies the bodies of both men and women. Lucas reminds us that beneath our clothes and our attempts at being cultural, dignified creatures, we are all just kinds of gross blobs of flesh that have sex.
I was fond of Lucas’ older sculptures which were made out of stuffed tights; passively flopping across and knotted to wooden chairs, the piece portrays the feminine body as passive and trapped in its place.The piece sat awkwardly within the room of six foot dicks; but the awkwardness in itself reminds us of the west’s and particularly Britain’s tendency to shy away from bodies as sexual things. Glossy magazines will write hundreds of words about how a certain celebrity has lost weight, or how so-and-so can’t lose her baby weight, but in ‘Situation’ Lucas implores us to remember that bodies are not external things, or things that we must control with strict diets, designer labels or regimes, but that they are ordinary objects that inevitably make up everyday life.
The final gallery marks an out of character calmness for Lucas; her newer sculptures of cream and gold, whilst beautiful and sumptuous, fade into nothingness when juxtaposed to her works in the other rooms . If the first few galleries were to be interpreted as representing the mind of a sex addict, the final gallery reveals their mind after a few months at the rehabilitation clinic.
Admittedly, you wouldn’t need to spend more than 15 minutes in the exhibit to get what Lucas was doing. But ‘SItuation’ should be celebrated; in its refusal to be elitist or exclusive, the exhibition emerges as a humorous interplay of a drug fuelled hen party, fried eggs, a fourteen year old boy’s graffiti on a mate’s rough book, chicken carcasses, and fourth wave feminist art. But if there is one final thing I can say, it is this: Do not enter this show with your parents, they’ve fast forwarded far too many sex scenes in films for you to ultimately bring them into this exhibition.