Lynda Benglis is an American artist recognised for her poured latex and foam sculptures that she began making in the late 1960s. In eliminating the canvas, Benglis blurred the boundaries between the two previously separate traditions of painting and sculpture. These oozing, biomorphic forms melt hierarchies and distinctions.Read More
Benglis began by pouring latex and polyurethane foam onto the floor and corners of her studio. Later, she cast these shapes in metals to create a mix of soft and hard physical forms. Benglis' sculptures—a mixture of Abstract Expressionism, process art, transformation, and feminist art—challenged the male-dominated Minimalist movement and trend towards control over painting that pervaded at the time.
In many of her sculptural works, Benglis use pastel colours and craft materials such as glitter and wax to distance herself from the cool colours and 'macho' media used by her contemporaries. One series of works involved Benglis reflecting upon her Greek heritage and producing pieces named after letters of the Greek alphabet. An example of this is Psi (1973)—a glittery, twisted sculptural knot. Another notable series is her pleated metal sculptures, as with the silver and mauve Eridanus (1984).
Though revolutionary in practice, Lynda Benglis' luscious and groundbreaking works went under-recognised in the 1970s New York art scene. In 1974, in response to the male dominance of the art world, Benglis notoriously photographed herself naked—wearing nothing but cat eye sunglasses and holding a dildo against her crotch—and placed the image as an advertisement in Artforum. Though met with much criticism, this famous act did little to elicit response for her work at the time. The artist's willingness to use her own body in photography, however, went down in feminist art history. It also represented an era that saw the likes of Cindy Sherman take self-portraiture to a new level.
Benglis has produced not only sculpture but also video and photographs to explore themes of power, dominance, masculinity, gender relations, and natural forms. An example of this is her video piece, Female Sensibility (1973), made in response to the 1970s belief that a lesbian phase was necessary in the women's movement. In it, Benglis kisses her colleague Marilyn Lenkowsky, leading the viewer to question the role of women and ideas around submission.
In an interview with Ocula Magazine in February 2015, Benglis says of her video work, 'I studied underground filmmaking and I began to think about the difference between video image and film time. . . . I was interested in the idea of investigating moving image in real time, using different contexts.'
Benglis grew up in Louisiana, where she attended McNeese State University. In 1964 she received a BFA in ceramics and painting from Newcomb College in New Orleans. Later she moved to New York, became involved in the art scene there and pursued painting at the Brooklyn Museum Art School.
Lynda Benglis, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (2020); Early Work: 1967–1979, Cheim & Read and Ortuzar Projects, New York (2020); Elephant Necklace, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Louisiana (2019); Lynda Benglis, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2017); Cuerpos, Materia y Alma: Las Esculturas de Lynda Benglis, Museo International del Barroco, Puebla, Mexico (2016); Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK (2015).
Ceramics: The Central Core Part I, Richard Saltoun Gallery (online exhibition, 2021); Knotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture after Abstract Expressionism, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; At The Noyes House Blum & Poe, Mendes Wood DM and Object & Thing, The Eliot Noyes House, New Canaan, Connecticut (2020); 1967–1980: Explorations, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2019); Painters Reply: Experimental Painting in the 1970s and Now, Lisson Gallery, New York (2019); Surface Work, Victoria Miro, London (2018); American Masters 1940–1980, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2018).
Ocula | 2021
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