Henry Moore Institute

Ordinary things: Tights, shredded newsprint, chairs, vegetables, concrete, boots, buckets, neon strip lighting, plaster, branches, a bra, pie, a mattress, a sheep’s skull, polystyrene, breeze blocks, fluff – this mundane selection of commonplace objects and materials fill the galleries at the Henry Moore Institute for Sarah Lucas’ current solo show. Everyday objects are stuffed, cast, hung and assembled in array of seemingly simple sculptural forms; their ordinariness inherited from the world they come from and represent.

Iconic pieces are presented alongside lesser known works, with newer and very recent sculptures punctuating the more familiar, well-studied favourites of the turn-of-the-millennium art school undergraduates. The gallery staff are keen to emphasise that this is not a retrospective, despite featuring works dating back to the 90s, rather that the exhibition looks forwards as well as backwards across the last 20 years of Lucas’ practice.

Octopus (1993) and Big Fat Anarchic Spider (1993), both formed of shredded newspaper stuffed in nearly-black sheer tights, feature in gallery 2 alongside the more recent NUDS (2009-2010); the au naturel tights stuffed with fluff, ambiguous-form descendents of the earlier leggier works.

Lucas’ NUDS have received a lot of attention and have obviously captured the interest of Lisa le Feuvre, exhibition curator and Head of Sculpture Studies at the Henry Moore Institute, who previously showed them in British Art Show 7: In the Day of the Comet. They have also featured in Lucas’ recent solo shows in Mexico and Greece.

Perhaps the NUDS optimise the essence of ordinary. Their organic forms twist and turn into themselves without an obvious beginning or end. Amorphous compositions in muted, semi-transparent synthetic “natural” hues; they are the plain, undisguised form of sculpture. Placed atop plinths of stacked breezeblock their comic natural-faux-natural sculpturality is heightened and semi-anthropomorphised.

When Lucas transforms and assembles materials into other objects, the familiarity of what is on display is manifold in the recognisability of not only their material composition but also in their resemblance to other familiar objects from the ordinary world of the everyday and of the history of sculpture. Lucas, often referred to as one of the “shock tactics” YBAs – the one not represented by Jay Joplin – and regarded in terms of feminist agendas, has largely been in the spotlight for her place and activity in these constructs rather than of the rhetoric of sculpture and form, so this current situating in the institute for sculpture studies can surely not be incidental.

A concurrent project Lucas is undertaking is Situation above her friend and dealer’s gallery Sadie Coles HQ in London. Situation is a gallery project devoted to Lucas during 2012, previously featuring Situation Miss Jumbo Savaloy (February – March 2012), Situation With Love (March – June 2012) and now Situation Rose Bush (until December 2012). Sadie Coles describes Ordinary as a survey [of Lucas’ practice] and Situation as an artist-led organic programme of exhibitions and events. What both seem to have in common is a desire to revisit the past and develop a new body of work – something which seems a very normal, ordinary thing for an artist to do.