Lynda Benglis – American Artist

Lynda Benglis at Le Consortium

Today’s post concludes a sequence of three consecutive posts dedicated to female American artists (poets are artists).

Lynda Benglis: Roberta (1974)

Sculpture, enamel, sculpmetal and tinsel on aluminium screeing and foil
Primary Insc: not signed, not dated.
79.1 h x 89.1 w x 41.3 d cm

Lynda Benglis is an American artist, mainly sculptor with Greek blood. Her father’s family was Greek in origin and she still has family on the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo.

She was born in Louisiana in 1941 and after graduating from college moved to New York in 1964.

Christopher Knight writes in Los Angeles Times:

“When she arrived in New York shortly after, in the mid-1960s, art’s purity police were out in full force, busily patrolling what artists shouldn’t do when making paintings and mustn’t do when making sculptures.

If you sense a collision coming, take a bow. Benglis, after surveying Manhattan’s art landscape, did the only reasonable thing. In the face of its ponderous penitential virtue, she brought Mardi Gras to Soho.

The fiesta was undertaken neither lightly nor at random. Ambitious, she looked hard at the local art that had come before, from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Much of it was great; still, it’s always helpful to know how we get to where we are.

She looked at Jackson Pollock’s skeins of dripped paint and at Helen Frankenthaler’s big puddles of stained color. Barnett Newman’s zip-lines — those ambiguous vertical bars of color dividing fields of painted light and darkness — came under scrutiny. So did more recent work: Carl Andre’s checkerboards of metal plates that turned the floor into an artistic pedestal for people, Donald Judd’s orderly sculptural subdivisions of space and Richard Serra’s molten lead splashed into studio corners — all of them sculptures directly challenging the postwar primacy of painting. “

Lynda Benglis: Smile (1974) cast bronze

Benglis has a powerful sense of humour, which she manifested gloriously in her 1974 advert in Artforum magazine.

Hilarie Sheets comments in her New York Times article:

“She (Benglis) lampooned both the machismo of the art world and the way artists were expected to promote themselves in a market-driven system by exposing herself, with a dildo between her legs, in a 1974 Artforum advertisement that she paid for, earning her as many fans as detractors.”

Lynda Benglis: Phantom

Arttatler offer the followng insight into Benglis’ work:

“Benglis’s best-known works question the rigors of Modernism and Minimalism by merging material, form, and content; bringing color back into sculpture; and taking painting off the wall. These works include her richly layered wax paintings and poured latex and polyurethane foam sculptures of the late 1960s and early ’70s; innovative videos, installations, and “knots” from the 1970s; metalized, pleated wall pieces of the 1980s and 1990s; and pieces in a variety of other mediums, such as glass, ceramics, photography, or cast polyurethane, as in the case of the monumental The Graces (2003-05)”

Lynda Benglis: The Graces

In her 2010 interview to the “frieze”, Benglis talked to Marina Cashdan about her art and work in a comprehensive way. I copy here one of the questions and the answer:

MC: Is Robert Pincus-Witten’s term for your work, ‘the frozen gesture’, a misnomer, because your work feels more like it’s living, an act as opposed to a confined object?
Lynda Benglis: Well ‘the frozen gesture’ was something that I think both Yves Klein and Franz Kline had done. Symbolically, Klein jumped out the window: he was involved with gesture, process (his ‘women brushes’ painting with their bodies) and the symbolic (sponges soaked with his paint on monochromatic blue canvases). Kline took the gesture and made it iconographic. Frank Stella said that Kline was one of his favourite artists, so I think Stella himself took the canvas, the stretcher bars, and turned them on their side to make them painted objects, as did other artists who were using materials and geometry. They were presenting something that was, in a way, rebellious and sometimes simplistic, and it was called Minimalism. I saw that and understood it in the context of where art could go, but for me it was a statement that seemed very rococo. It was way out on a limb. I felt that art had to have more content, a multiplicity of meaning and associations. And even many of those so-called Minimal artists broke out of their own self-created mould! ”

Lynda Benglis at Le Consortium

On the occasion of her first major retrospective in the UK, Benglis talked to “The Guardian’s” Laura Barnett, and concluded as follows:

“You can say, ‘Is there the influence of Greece?’ or ‘Do these works look like the sea?’ Those things are all there, but there are many other associations. I think all good art is really abstract. That’s how it transcends cultural differences. That’s how it speaks to us.”

Lynda Benglis: Untitled