Installation view: “Sarah Lucas: Nuds,” Museo Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli, Mexico City
Sarah Lucas’s wonderful show is situated in the Museo Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli, Mexico City, a building designed by Diego Rivera and his friend, the architect Juan O’Gorman. Built to house Rivera’s collection of some 50,000 pre-Hispanic objects, the museum is Aztec-Fascist and as much movie set as an accumulation of galleries. It is also a surrogate tomb for Rivera’s gigantic persona. Constructed of black, volcanic rock and slashed with windows of agate, the building is filled with serpentine ceiling mosaics and gothic paved floors. It would not be shocking to stumble into a room where Mel Gibson was filming Apocalypto II—such is the theater of the intentionally fantastical space.
The sculpture that Lucas has created is a direct response to Rivera’s collection and the mausoleum which houses it. The work was made for the exhibition during a residence in Oaxaca, Mexico. There, Lucas found the indigenous bricks that she ultimately used as sculpture bases for her “Nuds”—foam-stuffed nylon appendages that are manipulated into Kama-Sutra-puppets capable of assuming any pose, including that of self-penetration. Occasionally wrapped around toilet seats or emerging from the bowl like an antic Frankensteinian bride, the Nuds are happily, casually erotic, and very parallel to the rhythmic objects in Rivera’s collection. In a number of cases, it is clear that Lucas is creating a Nud-ish update of an adjacent anthropological piece and, when this happens, there is a gorgeous reverberation that electrifies the gallery. Lucas’s titles are also alert to the mythic and historical vibrations of the place. Two of the pieces, for example, refer alternately to Dr. Atl and Sheela na gig. Dr. Atl was the Mexican painter of volcanoes and mentor of Rivera; Sheela na gig is the name given to the mysterious Celtic carvings of women displaying their enlarged vaginas, a pose believed to ward off evil. It is rare when an artist can absorb, translate, and evolve the anthropological past to create something that is so joyful while at the same time an homage as well as an original work of art.