The YBAs (Young British Artists), who roared out of London in the 1980s, were never known for their subtlety. But it has been fascinating to watch these fiery heralds of youthful excess slouch into middle age. Damien Hirst, for instance, has seen his art-market clout collapse, while Tracey Emin has evolved into a beloved doyenne of abused female feeling.
Another YBA, Sarah Lucas, likewise reflects the effects of time if not maturity in her first New York show in ten years, managing, on occasion, to elevate her puerile obsession with the alimentary and the anatomical to a ruined sculptural grandeur worthy of Shelley’s trunkless legs in the desert.
Phallic forms of varying shape, size and medium provide the main thrust here, most effectively in a pair of giant lifelike dildos installed in different rooms. Each is cast in concrete and coupled with an automobile post–car-crusher. One dick is jauntily perched atop its ride, while the other leans tip-first toward the floor. Both evoke the male midlife crisis on the scale of public monuments—focusing, as it were, on manly essence while eliminating the usual middle man of pigeon-shit-covered statesman.
The rest of the show includes large floorbound bronze objects resembling elongated cucumbers, and a suite of small, entangled sausage shapes (also in bronze) atop tall stacks of concrete blocks. Somewhat distracting and totally unnecessary, however, are the photomurals reprising early works, like the 1990 image of the artist eating a banana. Like low-rise jeans, being cocky doesn’t wear well with age.—Howard Halle