Sarah Lucas

The Old In Out


Not on display

Sarah Lucas born 1962
Polyurethane resin
Displayed: 400 × 360 × 520 mm, 14 kg
Purchased 1999


The Old In Out was originally part of a larger installation and exhibition of the same title comprising nine similar pieces - cast resin toilet bowls coloured in differing but predominantly urine-like yellow shades - shown at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, in 1998. After the exhibition the installation was split up and the toilets were dispersed separately. As is typical with Lucas' cast sculptures, the rough edges of the casting process have been left around the back of the piece, emphasising its hand-made qualities. She has said: 'My work is about one person doing what they can - it's not corporate. I like the handmade aspect of the work. I'm not keen to refine it: I enjoy the crappy bits round the back. When it's good enough it's perfect.' (Quoted in Young British Artists II, [p.4].) In contrast with the clean-edged resin casts of domestic objects by Rachael Whiteread, which investigate negative space and the linear aspects of sculpture, Lucas's toilet has a convoluted organic form, both in its rounded contours and in the jagged remains of the casting process, which allies it closely with the body.

The title The Old In Out comes from London street slang for burglary but also has sexual and, in this context, scatological connotations. However, the word-play on notions of thieving and rapid to-and-fro bodily movement, even the motion of food or liquid passing in and out of the body, belies the still and crystalline nature of the object. Despite its bright, urine-yellow colour the resin has a glassy quality. Its translucencey confers aesthetic beauty and, transcending the smuttiness of the work's title, raises the abject to a new level. Duchamp's urinal entitled Fountain 1917 (Tate T07573) imaginatively associated a base receptacle of waste liquid with an ornamental and romantic source of refreshment. Here Lucas has employed a similar type of word-with-object inversion, although it is the qualities of the material rather than the work's title which elevates the object. Toilets are a recurring theme in Lucas's work, functioning as reminders of mortality, self-destructive urges and abusive attitudes towards women's bodies. Is Suicide Genetic? 1996 (Tate P78209) is a photograph of a toilet with the words of the title written inside the bowl. Human Toilet Revisited 1998 (Tate P78299) is a photograph of the artist sitting on the toilet smoking a cigarette.

Further reading:
Sensation: Young Artists from the Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997, pp.114-9
Sarah Lucas, exhibition catalogue, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Rotterdam, 1996
Young British Artists II, exhibition catalogue, Saatchi Collection, London 1993, [pp.3-4]

Elizabeth Manchester
January 2000

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Display caption

The Old In Out is one of several resin toilet bowls cast in a urine-coloured yellow by Lucas. It operates as a visual pun, blending lavatorial humour with vulgar sexual connotations. The title is London street slang for a burglary, but also makes reference to sex. 'Generally I've used old toilets for their grubby value. It was nice to make ones that look quite smart - like antidotes. I like the idea of something uncouth being elegant,' says Lucas. It can also be seen as a salute to Marcel Duchamp's famous Fountain, which he made by up-turning a urinal and declaring it a work of art.

Gallery label, August 2004

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