“Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel,” at the Hammer Museum is sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing and grotesque, but always compelling and provocative. It is an extensive and diverse exhibition of more than 130 works in photography, collage, sculpture, assemblage and installation. Entering the exhibition is almost an affront to the senses. But it is very well curated with a floor plan that is spread out in such a way, that we easily move from room to room.
“Au Natural,” photo courtesy of the Hammer Museum

There are three main rooms each containing works of a similar theme. Throughout the exhibition, we see found objects and everyday materials such as furniture, cigarettes, vegetables, food and stockings transformed into absurd and confrontational works that boldly challenge social norms. For example, in “Au Natural,” we see an assemblage of everyday items: two melons, a bucket, a couple of oranges and a cucumber on a worn out mattress. The arrangement of these unrelated objects suggests a post coital couple. Erotic? No. Poignant? Crude? Provocative? Definitely. It is Lucas’ clever take on the French phrase ‘Au Natural’ which traditionally denotes paintings of reclining female nudes and translates as ‘in the natural’ or ‘in the nude.’ I love that it’s the title of the exhibition as well as the title of this piece.
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“Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab,” photo by Barbara Kosoff

A piece that harkens back to Surrealism and the legacy of Rene Magritte, is “Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab” – it is just that – two fried eggs and a kebab arranged on an unassuming wooden table that suggests a woman’s torso, and reduces the body to its sexual organs taking aim at objectification and misogyny.

In Lucas’ larger than life sized self-portrait of “Eating a Banana,” the artist stares assertively at the viewer while taking a bite. It is irreverent and bold, one from a series of twelve self-portraits produced between 1990 and 1998. In these confrontational images, Lucas presents an identity which challenges stereotypical representations of gender and sexuality.

In “Bunny Gets Snookered,” we see a series of sculptures arranged on and around a pool or snooker table. This installation is humorous, yet disturbing, a common thread in Lucas’ work. Lucas stuffed variously colored pairs of tights with cotton wadding to make ‘bunny girl’ forms, with bunny ears, a reference to Playboy Bunnies, whose limply dangling arms and passively lolling legs provide a representation of abject femininity, all while being clamped down to the chairs they are sitting on. The bunny girl is trapped by her femininity, only to be knocked against her fellow bunnies in a game of masculine skill.
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“Bunny Gets Snookered,” photo by Kathy Leonardo

These are just a few highlights from the exhibition. There is so much more to see!

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel is on exhibit through Sept 1, 2019. Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024; https://hammer.ucla.edu/