There is Lucas’s famous Au Naturel (1994), a slumping mattress that sprouts a penis and testicles in the form of a cucumber and oranges, and breasts and a vagina, via two melons and a bucket. It holds up better than some of her older work, still feeling original and deliciously funny in its irreverent send-up of the human form, stripping down male and female to a few humble (largely edible) objects and a worn-out bed. Together, they reduce the body to two of its more essential functions: sex and consumption. It’s warmer than some of her other work, too, suggesting a heterosexual couple lying next to each other, nervously, awkwardly aroused.
The strongest works in the show are the more formal and sometimes diminutive sculptures, ones made of plaster, wood, and metal—penises that stand on wooden plinths like ornamental relics or ancient bones, dicks composed of crumpled aluminum beer cans, or the seductive Things (1992): a barbed, phallic, cactus-like form whose spikes are cigarettes. These objects queer the penis, making it more complex, difficult, and eccentric—the male member not as an assertive organ, but as a form that is by turns shrunken, morose, delicate, or hostile. Each has its own character that brings nuance to these masculine surrogates, revealing what lies beneath the peacock-ery.
This more layered approach to gender identities manifests in the single most subversive piece in the exhibition: Egg Massage (2015), a video that shows Lucas’s partner, Julian Simmons, lying naked on a dinner table while the artist breaks eggs onto his body, with a crowd of guests looking on. Simmons is the muse, the object of voyeurism and consumption, the submissive—even as he chooses to rub egg into his groin, responding to the apparent pleasure of being drenched in procreational gunk. Lucas is the master of erotic ceremonies here, watching and massaging Simmons’s prostrate figure as he writhes around, fully embracing their gender-role switch.