The Curious Forms of Lynda Benglis

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Known for her experimental fusion of Abstract Expressionist techniques, feminist ideologies, and sculptural aesthetics, Louisiana native Lynda Benglis is currently the subject of a near-encyclopedic retrospective at Culver City’s Blum & Poe. Highlighting her formal and conceptual achievements over the past thirty years, this presentation also celebrates the artist’s triumphant return to Los Angeles following her critically acclaimed 2011 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

With her artistic process typically involving poured, Jackson Pollock-esque acrylics, dripped wax, melted bronze, as well as latex, ceramics, polyurethane, and glass, Benglis was actually the very first artist to fashion sculptures out of paint. Before her pioneering works, combining these two forms was simply not done. In the years following World War II, painting was still considered to be most noble medium. With her striking amalgamations, Benglis aimed to challenge this outdated notion.

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Lynda Benglis, installation view, 2017. © Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo: Joshua White/JWPictures.com.

After moving to New York in the 1960s and rubbing elbows with now-legendaries like Donald Judd, Eva Hesse, and Sol Lewitt, she worked to unify New York’s refined abstract movement with a Mardi Gras-inspired maximalism. While the era’s art world and works was male-dominated and featured primal, masculine energy, Benglis fought against exclusion with bright, intriguing hues and curvaceous lines.

Often employing contorted and decrepit-looking forms with knots and lumps, her works have been referred to as “frozen gestures” due to their bodily features. Never one to shy away from issues of gender politics, Benglis famously posed nude with a comically large sex toy on the cover of a 1974 issue of Artforum to advertise for an upcoming show. This unapologetically feminist act inspired many other iconic women in the art world, including Cindy Sherman.

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Lynda Benglis, installation view, 2017. © Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo: Joshua White/JWPictures.com

With each room in this eponymous exhibition featuring one of the artist’s signature style, including bronze fountains, ceramics, and fleshy, humanoid aluminium sculptures, one of the most commanding works here is undoubtedly the monumental eleven-foot stainless steel and phosphorescent cast polyurethane structure, “HILLS AND CLOUDS” (2014). In spite of its heavy materials, this piece looks almost weightless. It also glows in the dark. Synthesizing a myriad of different influences and artistic movements, Lynda Benglis’s conceptual sculptures use decaying corporeal and landscape imagery to speak to the fleeting, ephemeral nature of human life and the world around us.

Lynda Benglis
Through December 16, 2017
Blum & Poe
2727 La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Emily Nimptsch

Emily Nimptsch

Emily Nimptsch is a freelance arts and culture writer living in Los Angeles. She has written for Flaunt, ArtSlant, Artillery, and produced blog content for Venice Beach’s L.A. Louver Gallery.

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