Viewing Room Main Site
Skip to content

Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis: Early Work 1967-1979

Lynda Benglis: Early Work 1967-1979

A major exhibition presented by Cheim & Read and Ortuzar Projects brings together work that proved crucial to the development of Lynda Benglis’s practice during her first decade in New York. Three concurrent exhibitions will be on view in Tribeca and the Upper East Side.

Lozenge-shaped wax paintings are juxtaposed with Benglis's latex and polyurethane pours at Cheim & Read at 23 East 67th Street. One floor above, at the Ortuzar viewing room, is a selection of gilded wall sculptures inspired by the caryatids from the porch of the Erechtheion at the Acropolis in Athens. Sparkle and metallized knot sculptures, including the multi-part installation North, South, East, West, 1976 – last shown in New York at a 1981 Whitney Museum exhibition – are on view at Ortuzar Projects in Tribeca.

Benglis has forged a fifty-year career at the forefront of Post-Minimalist innovation alongside her peers Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, Eva Hesse, and Bruce Nauman. She arrived at singularly beautiful, often shocking results that, as art historian and critic Julia Bryan-Wilson writes in the exhibition’s online catalogue essay, “refuse to be constrained by conventional codes around the ostensibly discrete genres of painting and sculpture.” This joint exhibition marks the first survey of Benglis’s early work in New York since her mid-career retrospective (2009-2011), which traveled to the New Museum.

We are delighted to announce the release of the online exhibition catalogue including an new essay, "Flounce: Lynda Benglis's Queer Femme Forms," by Julia Bryan-Wilson, the Doris and Clarence Malo Professor History of Art at University of California, Berkeley, and the Adjunct Curator at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Julia has published significant scholarly works including Fray: Art and Textile Politics (2017, University of Chicago), and Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (2009, University of California) on the radical art production the late 1960s and early 1970s, the same years surveyed in this exhibition.

Wax & Pours

These sexually suggestive bodies of work both arise out of highly liquid processes. Made at the cusp of the 1960s and ’70s, these lushly colored, sculptural build-ups of pigmented wax transform their wood and masonite supports into ambisexual totems, alternately reveling in buttery sensuality and bristling with coral-like encrustations. Simultaneously phallic (vertical and columnar) and vulval (symmetrical and slit across the middle), the artist likened the making of them to masturbation, during which she repetitively applied coats of molten wax.

In contrast, the latex and foam pours, from 1968 and 1969, sit on the floor with impudent humor, jarring shapes, and provocative color. Benglis created them by consciously lampooning the macho Abstract Expressionist myth of the genius alone in his studio, attempting to force art history in a single direction while ignoring the  multifarious visions that actually existed. The works in this show display Benglis’s insistence, as Catherine J. Morris writes in the catalogue for the exhibition WOMAN. FEMINIST AVANT-GARDE of the 1970s, that “culturally and politically determined labels should be understood as fluid and responsive positions rather than as static identifications.” (1)

"These objects refuse to be constrained by conventional codes around the ostensibly discrete genres of painting and sculpture; they also violate, or queer, norms around any presumed gender binary." - Julia Bryan-Wilson

2 column Text or Image

BE.40399 TU-LIP artwork details - more images needed

Lynda Benglis
TU-LIP  1967
Purified and pigmented beeswax, damar resin, and gesso on masonite and wood
30 1/8 x 5 1/4 x 1 3/4 inches
76.5 x 13.3 x 4.4 centimeters
CR# BE.40399

Inquire
BE.13917 UNTITLED 1969 artwork details - more images needed

Lynda Benglis
UNTITLED  1969
Pigmented polyurethane foam
6 1/4 x 56 5/8 x 57 5/8 inches
15.9 x 143.8 x 146.4 centimeters
CR# BE.13917

Inquire
BE.7696 NIGHT SHERBET B
BE.7696 NIGHT SHERBET B
BE.7696 NIGHT SHERBET B artwork details
BE.7696 NIGHT SHERBET B artwork details

Lynda Benglis
NIGHT SHERBET B  1969
Pigmented polyurethane foam
5 x 25 1/2 x 42 1/2 inches
12.7 x 64.8 x 108 centimeters
CR# BE.7696

Inquire
BE.16574 SHAPE SHIFTER
BE.16574 SHAPE SHIFTER
BE.16574 SHAPE SHIFTER artwork details
BE.16574 SHAPE SHIFTER artwork details

Lynda Benglis
SHAPE SHIFTER  1969
Poured pigmented latex
21 x 33 inches
53.3 x 83.8 centimeters
CR# BE.16574

Inquire
BE.13272 CHALK WAX III
BE.13272 CHALK WAX III
BE.13272 CHALK WAX III artwork details
BE.13272 CHALK WAX III artwork details

Lynda Benglis
CHALK-WAX III  1968-70
Pigmented purified beeswax, damar resin on masonite
36 x 5 x 1 inches
91.4 x 12.7 x 2.5 centimeters
CR# BE.13272

Inquire
BE.16142 UNTITLED 1970
BE.16142 UNTITLED 1970
BE.16142 UNTITLED 1970 artwork details
BE.16142 UNTITLED 1970 artwork details

Lynda Benglis
UNTITLED  1970
Pigmented beeswax, damar resin and gesso on masonite
36 x 5 x 3 inches
91.4 x 12.7 x 7.6 centimeters
CR# BE.16142

Inquire
BE.5178 KAREN
BE.5178 KAREN
BE.5178 KAREN artwork details

Lynda Benglis
KAREN  1972
Purified pigmented beeswax, damar resin and gesso on masonite
36 x 5 x 3 inches
91.4 x 12.7 x 7.6 centimeters
CR# BE.5178

Inquire
BE.40084 UNTITLED 1971
BE.40084 UNTITLED 1971
BE.40084 UNTITLED 1971 artwork details
BE.40084 UNTITLED 1971 artwork details

Lynda Benglis
UNTITLED  1971
Purified pigmented beeswax, damar resin and gesso on masonite
36 1/4 x 5 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches
92.1 x 14 x 6.4 centimeters
CR# BE.40084

Inquire

Gold

When she was a girl, Benglis’s grandmother took her on a trip to the Greek island of Megiste, also known as Kastellorizo, her family’s ancestral home. It was there that she encountered the gilded icons of the Greek Orthodox Church, which made a deep and lasting impression on her. Benglis’s use of gold is conflicted and complex, playing on its perceived preciousness as well as the ways it can be cheap and deceptive, a referential range encompassing both Byzantine treasure and Mardi Gras glitter. In her catalogue essay, Bryan-Wilson singles out the bulging, bow-like Flounce (1978):

"Many of Benglis’s works also flounce – they amplify and exaggerate the voluptuous pleasures found in femme self-fashioning of all kinds, and revel in its outrageous and lewd aspects."

Lynda Benglis
FLOUNCE  1978
Chicken wire, cotton, plaster, gesso, oil based size, gold leaf
48 x 16 x 8 inches
121.9 x 40.6 x 20.3 centimeters
CR# BE.19424

Inquire

Lynda Benglis
FIGURE I  1978
Chicken wire, cotton, plaster, gesso, oil based size, gold leaf
34 3/4 x 20 x 7 3/4 inches
88.3 x 50.8 x 19.7 centimeters
CR# BE.308

Inquire

Lynda Benglis
CURRENT  1979
Brass wire mesh, plaster, gesso, oil based size, and gold leaf
17 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches
44.5 x 36.8 x 7 centimeters
CR# BE.9645

Inquire

Lynda Benglis
FAN BIRD  1979
Brass wire screen, plaster, gesso, oil based size, gold leaf
35 x 22 x 4 1/2 inches
88.9 x 55.9 x 11.4 centimeters
CR# BE.40388

Inquire

Lynda Benglis
PANKAJ  1979
Bronze wire mesh, plaster, gesso, oil based size, gold leaf
27 1/2 x 12 x 10 inches
69.9 x 30.5 x 25.4 centimeters
CR# BE.6224

Inquire

Lynda Benglis
SKOWHEGAN TORSO  1979
Chicken wire, cotton, plaster, gesso, oil based size, gold leaf
27 1/8 x 27 3/8 x 11 3/8 inches
68.9 x 69.5 x 28.9 centimeters
CR# BE.40186

Inquire

Knots

Knot sculptures made out of cotton bunting treated with glitter, paint, or sprayed metals create an interior and an exterior, like a body, and reference the long limbs of a figure. The four elements, sprayed in zinc, steel, and tin that make up North South East West (1976) explode in an ecstatically choreographed configuration across the wall. In these works, Benglis exhibits a surface restraint, employing mostly monochrome, while ratcheting up the complexity of the forms. These are Minimalist sculptures gone haywire, looping into and around themselves, evoking the convolutions of lived experience rather than the purity of theoretical thought. The show also includes Smile (1974), a bronze cast of the double-headed dildo that Benglis brandished in her notorious ARTFORUM ad of November 1974, which launched the artist as an icon of defiance against the powers that be.

"Benglis grasps the joy of the fake-out, the hard that looks soft, the industrial that becomes pliable and handworked."

2 column Text or Image

BE.40391 ETA
BE.40391 ETA
BE.40391 ETA artwork details
BE.40391 ETA artwork details

Lynda Benglis
ETA  1972
Aluminum screen, cotton bunting, plaster, paint, glitter
40 x 18 x 14 inches
101.6 x 45.7 x 35.6 centimeters
CR# BE.40391

Inquire
BE.36160 UNTITLED (TOTEM)
BE.36160 UNTITLED (TOTEM)
BE.36160 UNTITLED (TOTEM) artwork details
BE.36160 UNTITLED (TOTEM) artwork details

Lynda Benglis
UNTITLED (TOTEM)  1972
Plaster, fabric, glitter, mica
101 x 5 x 3 1/2 inches
256.5 x 12.7 x 8.9 centimeters
CR# BE.36160

Inquire
BE.19090 CHARLIE
BE.19090 CHARLIE
BE.19090 CHARLIE artwork details
BE.19090 CHARLIE artwork details

Lynda Benglis
CHARLIE  1973
Aluminum wire mesh, cotton bunting, plaster, sprayed zinc, copper
30 7/8 x 18 1/8 x 13 1/4 inches
77.2 x 48.3 x 33 centimeters
CR# BE.19090

Inquire
BE.1893 BRAVO
BE.1893 BRAVO
BE.1893 BRAVO artwork details
BE.1893 BRAVO artwork details

Lynda Benglis
BRAVO  1973-1974
Aluminum wire mesh, cotton bunting, plaster, sprayed zinc, bronze, copper
27 x 10 x 10 inches
68.6 x 25.4 x 25.4 centimeters
CR# BE.1893

Inquire
BE.19420 KILO
BE.19420 KILO
BE.19420 KILO artwork details
BE.19420 KILO artwork details

Lynda Benglis
KILO  1973-1974
Aluminum wire mesh, cotton bunting, plaster, sprayed zinc, aluminum
18 x 25 x 17 inches
45.7 x 63.5 x 43.2 centimeters
CR# BE.19420

Inquire
BE.241 ALPHA
BE.241 ALPHA
BE.241 ALPHA artwork details
BE.241 ALPHA artwork details

Lynda Benglis
ALPHA 1  1973-74
Aluminum screen, cotton bunting, plaster, sprayed zinc, aluminum, tin
32 x 14 x 12 inches
81.3 x 35.6 x 30.5 centimeters
CR# BE.241

Inquire
BE.19091 X-RAY
BE.19091 X-RAY
BE.19091 X-RAY artwork details
BE.19091 X-RAY artwork details

Lynda Benglis
X-RAY  1973-74
Aluminum wire mesh, cotton bunting, plaster, gesso, sprayed zinc, aluminum
20 x 55 1/2 x 14 inches
50.8 x 141 x 35.6 centimeters
CR# BE.19091

Inquire
BE.9807 QUEBEC
BE.9807 QUEBEC
BE.9807 QUEBEC artwork details
BE.9807 QUEBEC artwork details

Lynda Benglis
QUEBEC  1974
Aluminum wire screen, cotton bunting, sprayed zinc, copper, aluminum
39 x 28 x 8 inches
99.1 x 71.1 x 20.3 centimeters
CR# BE.9807

Inquire
BE.40387 SMILE
BE.40387 SMILE

Lynda Benglis
SMILE  1974
Cast bronze
15 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches
39.4 x 16.5 x 5.7 centimeters
CR# BE.40387

Inquire
BE.19446 NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST
BE.19446 NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST
BE.19446 NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST artwork details
BE.19446 NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST artwork details

Lynda Benglis
NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST  1976
Aluminum wire screen, cotton bunting, plaster, sprayed zinc, steel, tin
North: 40 x 23 x 15 1/2 inches
South: 51 x 27 x 14 inches
East: 37 x 29 x 19 inches
West: 60 x 24 x 17 inches
CR# BE.19446

Inquire

Introduction

After moving from Louisiana to New York in 1964, Benglis began a series of radical experiments with materials and techniques in pursuit of “defiantly feminist,  […] queerly, cheekily, forcefully femme” works that defy preexisting formal and material parameters of contemporary art. From the very beginning Benglis’s practice, she has manipulated ambivalent and critical relationships among formal categories, confounding the definitions of performance, photography, video, painting, and sculpture. Helen Molesworth referred to this admixture as “a radical slippage of coordinates” (2) that opens Benglis's art to multiple streams of bodily, gendered, erotic, and psychosexual content. Together, these key bodies of work bear out Benglis’s formidable influence on contemporary sculpture. Her radical experiments with materials, engendered in style and form, must be reconsidered today as not only provocative but thoroughly transformative. 

 

LYNDA BENGLIS (b.1941, Lake Charles, Louisiana) lives and works in New York and Santa Fe. Her work is the subject of a forthcoming exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2020-2021) and the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2021). Her work was recently on view at the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, presented by NEON (2019-2020); Kistefos-Museet, Jevnaker (2018); The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire (2015); and the Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Le Consortium, Dijon, RISD Museum, Providence, the New Museum, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2009-2011). She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, among others. Her work is in the permanent collections of public institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Tate Modern, London. ­This exhibition is her eleventh with Cheim & Read, and her first with Ortuzar Projects.

 

NOTES

1. Morris, Catherine J. WOMAN. FEMINIST AVANT-GARDE of the 1970s. Gabriele Schor, editor. (Munich, Germany; London, England; Prestel 2016), p. 221.

2. Molesworth, Helen. "Lynda Benglis," in Part Object Part Sculpture, ed. Helen Molesworth (College Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), p. 173

All images © 2020 Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY. 

Downloadable Items

Wax & Pours Checklist
Gold Checklist
Press Release
Press Release
Back To Top