Sarah Lucas

Cigarette Tits [Idealized Smokers Chest II]

1999

Not on display
Artist
Sarah Lucas born 1962
Medium
Chair, balls, cigarettes and bra
Dimensions
Object: 800 x 480 x 520 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Tate Members 2014
Reference
T13928

Summary

In Cigarette Tits (Idealized Smokers Chest II) 1999 an everyday wood and metal chair has had a black bra attached to its back, facing forwards, each cup containing a sphere whose surface is entirely covered with cigarettes. Both cigarettes and chairs have featured in Lucas’s work over a long period. She has used chairs in her work since 1992, originally partly because they were cheap and easily available but also because of their metaphorical relationship to the human body (see, for example, Pauline Bunny 1997 [Tate T07437]). Cigarettes have also figured significantly in her practice. In her early work, they were mainly featured in photographic self-portraits (for example, Fighting Fire with Fire 1996 [Tate P78449]), as a rebel accessory, a phallic stand-in and a means for independence, and in the artist’s words for ‘possessing time in a palpable way, stopping to pause and contemplate … It’s really important to have areas of your life – whether it’s walking into a pub or smoking – where you suddenly feel you’ve found your own time zone.’ (Sarah Lucas, quoted in Sarah Kent, ‘Young at Art’, Time Out, October 7–14 1998, p.42.) Later, Lucas started to use them as a material, completely covering surfaces with cigarettes and using them to create swirling patterns as seen in Cigarette Tits. She has explained:

I first started trying to make something out of cigarettes because I like to use relevant kind of materials. I’ve got these cigarettes around so why not use them. There is this obsessive activity of me sticking all these cigarettes on the sculptures, and obsessive activity could be viewed as a form of masturbation. It is a form of sex, it does come from the same sort of drive, and there’s so much satisfaction in it. When you make something completely covered in cigarettes and see it as solid it looks incredibly busy and it’s a bit like sperm or genes under the microscope.
(Sarah Lucas, quoted in ‘Sarah Lucas: Tabloid Feminism’, , accessed 14 September 2011.)

In her work Lucas frequently challenges gender stereotypes through a play on conventions of representation and framing, specifically through the language and media of popular culture (as in Pauline Bunny and the three related Black and White Bunny photographs [Tate P78227P78229]). If femininity has been objectified in those realms, in works such as Cigarette Tits (Idealized Smokers Chest II) it is that process of objectification itself which is revealed to be both comic and ridiculous, a self-defeating reduction which turns its object into something ultimately undesirable. Appropriating the macho vernacular of tabloid culture – both in her titles and her imagery – has provided Lucas with the means to critique the tradition of the male gaze using its own language.

Further reading
Sarah Lucas: Exhibitions and Catalogue Raisonné 1989–2005, London 2005.

Helen Delaney
September 2013

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