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    Sarah Lucas: Good Muse

    July 15–September 17 at the Legion of Honor

    “A muse isn’t necessarily a particular person, the model. It can also be an outlook on life (musing). Art and life are not separate. In Rodin’s case that meant the model or models coming to sit for him and he was the boss, the big ego. I’m a bit more egalitarian.”

    -Sarah Lucas

    The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are proud to host Sarah Lucas: Good Muse, the artist’s first major museum exhibition in the United States. The Legion of Honor will present two new works by Lucas (b. 1962), as well as a selection of recent sculptures in dialogue with the museum’s acclaimed collection of works by Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death.

    Naked Truths

    By confronting Rodin’s nudes with Lucas’s naked truths, Good Muse will draw attention to the palpable eroticism in much of Rodin’s work, and simultaneously emphasize the dramatic shift in the cultural understanding and representation of sexuality and gender that has taken place over the course of the 20th century.

    Good Muse will give American audiences an opportunity to discover Lucas’s pointedly female perspective in the too often male-dominated canon of art history,” says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums. “Her works offer important and necessary commentary on the frequent objectification of the female form and will provide a loud cry in the collection galleries at the Legion of Honor.”

    Lucas came to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a member of the Young British Artists. She has gained notoriety for creating confrontational and often humorous work, which mediates between the absurd and the abject, the ribald and the poetic. Many sculptures showcase the crudeness of stereotypical conceptions of gender and sexuality. In Good Muse, Lucas will present sculptures in her signature range of materials—pantyhose, cigarettes, furniture, concrete, and plaster—charged with sexual and psychological power and a disruptive ambivalence.

    “Lucas’s bold sculptures confront the patriarchal representation of the sexualized female body with a feminist stance that is firmly grounded in experience,” says Claudia Schmuckli, curator-in-charge, contemporary art and programming, at the Fine Arts Museums. “Her suggestive combination of objects and materials counters Rodin’s sensuous eroticism with the raw and vulnerable realities of a sexual being.”

    Good Muse will be on view July 15 through September 17, 2017, in the Legion of Honor’s permanent collection galleries. The exhibition is curated by Schmuckli, the museums’ inaugural curator-in-charge of contemporary art and programming. It is the second exhibition in a contemporary art initiative launched by the Fine Arts Museums in 2017 that presents the work of living artists in dialogue with the collections, unique histories and identities of the de Young and Legion of Honor.


    Early Penchant for Androgeny

    From the outset, Lucas has been adopting and subverting stances associated with male behavior; aiming to debunk traditional notions of femininity. Her early penchant for androgyny—reflected in her groundbreaking self-portraits of the 1990s—has filtered into her current sculptural work. Many of her furniture-bound headless bodies fashioned from stuffed tights flaunt both male and female attributes and attitudes. Recognizable body parts, such as legs and breasts, multiply and merge to create surreal hybrids: bodies are recomposed out of suggestive fragments. Titti Doris (2017), a work from this series, will find its home among Rodin’s studies and models in plaster; in particular, the eroticized entanglement of Christ and the Magdalene (ca. 1894).

    Made for the occasion is Daddio in the Sky (2017). The dramatic new mixed-media work evoking the pierced flesh of Saint Sebastian will be placed among Rodin’s bronzes anchored in religion and mythology, such as Faun and Nymph (1886) and The Fallen Angel (ca. 1890). Using rods of light pushed through a mattress, Lucas’s piece foregoes a literal interpretation of the biblical figure, but the added breasts make the impact less gender specific.

    As a pièce de résistance, Jubilee (2017), another new sculpture, of six-foot-tall concrete high-heeled boots, defiantly faces Rodin’s apocalyptic vision of the Gates of Hell (1880–1888). Rodin’s masterpiece, housing an unfinished throng of cast bodies, is mirrored by the stark symmetry of Lucas’s concrete casts. While iterating the age-old association of sex and death, the monumental presence of Jubilee anchors Lucas’s concerns firmly in the here and now of a life lived with unbridled passion and a bawdy sense of humor.
       
    In the rotunda of the Legion of Honor and two adjacent galleries will be Lucas’s Muses; MicheleMargot, and Pauline (all 2015). Modeled and named after real women, the waist-to-toe plaster casts of the artist’s friends draped atop and around domestic furniture exude intimacy and candor. Reclined or sitting with legs splayed, the figures have cigarettes incongruously and suggestively projecting out of private regions. Betraying a confidence and cockiness that defy ingrained views of femininity, the Muses will be communing with and highlighting the sensuous eroticism of The Age of Bronze (1877, cast ca. 1014); one of Rodin’s most famous and explicit nudes.     

    For more information and to purchase tickets, go to: http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/sarah-lucas