Legion of Honor, San Francisco, through Sept. 17
Sarah Lucas: Good Muse
“A battle of the gaze is on at the Legion of Honor Museum,” said Charlotte Jansen in Wallpaper.com. In one corner: Auguste Rodin, the legendary French artist whose sensuous studies of the female form mark a high point in Western sculptural technique. In the other: Sarah Lucas, a 55-year-old Brit who came of age alongside fellow 1980s iconoclasts Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and is best known for her lumpy, ribald assemblages of stuffed pantyhose. It can be startling to see a timeless Rodin bronze beside works like Lucas’ Titti Doris, a bouquet of breast-like appendages attached to two jointless legs. But Lucas isn’t just throwing spitballs at a 19th-century master. Her work draws attention to a barely veiled erotic undercurrent in Rodin’s nudes and recasts the female muse as “a more complicated, gritty, and disenchanted crea- ture” than her male admirers might typically acknowledge.
A show like this risks relying too much on gimmickry, said Sarah Burke in KQED.org. But here the pairing of old and new “doesn’t feel cheap,” because you sense that the curator is sincere in trying to spark dialogue and because Lucas’ work is so playful. In one gallery, a handful of Rodin’s idealized bronze figures share space with Lucas’ Floppy Toilets, each perched on a mini refrigerator. The translucent, slumping commodes “look like Jell-O molds left out in the sun too long” and evoke the folds of the flabby stomachs most people actually live with. Rodin isn’t the only target, of course; “it’s as if Lucas is punking all of Western art-historical discourse.” My one complaint about the exhibition is that her soft, loose, often primitivist work has such “a potent bodily presence” that it’s “hard to look away.” The Rodins, in comparison, didn’t stand a chance. ■