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b. 1941, USA

Lynda Benglis Biography

Lynda Benglis is recognised for the sculptures made of poured latex and foam 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 melted hierarchies and distinctions. Though revolutionary in practice, the luscious and groundbreaking works went under-recognized in the 1970s New York art scene. In response to the male dominance of the art world, Benglis—oiled up, wearing nothing but cat eye sunglasses and brandishing a dildo—notoriously photographed herself for Centrefold (1974) in Artforum. Met with much criticism, this famous act did little to elicit response for her work at the time, but her willingness to use her own body in photography 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. 

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Benglis’ sculptural works came about in the late 1960s when she began 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. The 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 used 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).

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. Benglis’ work continues to garner interest and is the subject of solo exhibitions at locations such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011) and The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire (2015). Alongside this, her work continues to influence younger generations of artists.

Jessica Douglas | Ocula | 2017

Lynda Benglis Featured Artworks

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MAN/LANDSCAPE by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisMAN/LANDSCAPE, 1991Bronze on rock
46.4 x 12.1 x 15.2 cm
Cheim & Read Enquire about this work
Untitled (#24) from the Patang Fossil series by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisUntitled (#24) from the Patang Fossil series, 1979Collage on handmade Gandhi Ashram paper
88 x 69 cm
Thomas Dane Gallery
Back Bone by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisBack Bone, 2017Cast sparkles on handmade paper over chicken wire
127 x 81.3 x 31.8 cm
Pace Gallery
The Manu Light Vessel #1 by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisThe Manu Light Vessel #1, 2009Wire, electric bulbs, bamboo, recycled handmade cotton gandhi ashram paper
228.6 x 91.4 x 91.4 cm
Thomas Dane Gallery Enquire about this work
Venetian Opera by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisVenetian Opera, 2017 Pace Gallery
SB#5 by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisSB#5, 2017Cast sparkles on handmade paper over chicken wire
37 x 30 x 13 inches
Cheim & Read Enquire about this work
POWER TOWER by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisPOWER TOWER, 2019White Tombasil bronze
89 x 72 x 64 inches
Cheim & Read Enquire about this work
Calypso by Lynda Benglis contemporary artwork
Lynda BenglisCalypso, 2017Cast pigmented polyurethane
104.1 x 71.1 x 38.1 cm
Pace Gallery

Lynda Benglis Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Lynda Benglis, Hills and Clouds at Pace Gallery, New York
Closed
16 January–22 February 2020 Lynda Benglis Hills and Clouds Pace Gallery, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Lynda Benglis, Spettri at Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples
Closed
17 December 2019–14 March 2020 Lynda Benglis Spettri Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, In Honor of the New MoMA at Cheim & Read, New York
Closed
21 November 2019–29 February 2020 Group Exhibition In Honor of the New MoMA Cheim & Read, New York

Lynda Benglis Represented By

Lynda Benglis In Ocula Magazine

Lynda Benglis Ocula Conversation Lynda Benglis By Anna Dickie, New York

In 1974, Lynda Benglis created one of the iconic works of recent art history, Centrefold. The work was presented as an advertisement in Artforum and featured the artist naked, save for a pair of sunglasses, her body oiled, her hip thrust forward, holding an enormous dildo. Benglis has explained the work as “a study of the...

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Lynda Benglis In Related Press

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Painters Reply: Experimental Painting in the 1970s and Now Related Press Painters Reply: Experimental Painting in the 1970s and Now 2 July 2019, The Brooklyn Rail

On some timely occasions, we get the true pleasure to be reminded of T.S. Eliot's 'historical sense' (from his famous 1919 essay Tradition and Individual Talent). This historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past but of its very presence, which simply implies a co-function of simultaneous existence and simultaneous...

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Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show Related Press Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show 15 April 2018, The Guardian

There are certain shows that change one's sense of art. Surface Work is one of them. Spread across two sites, it is nothing less than an anthology of abstract painting spanning an entire century, from early constructivism to post-digital sampling, in which every work holds its own and every work is by a woman. This is a rare and historic event....

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Interview with India Menuez and Lynda Benglis Related Press Interview with India Menuez and Lynda Benglis 12 October 2017, Vogue Italia

It was a Friday afternoon mid-fashion week, but within the calm surrounds of Lynda Benglis’ airy Prince Street loft, that chaos couldn’t have felt further away. Beneath one of the 76-year-old sculptor’s globular polyurethane wall pieces, the performance artist India Menuez, 24, sat on the floor stroking the elf-like ears of Benglis’ dopey...

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Julia Stoschek Collection celebrates 10 years with generation spanning video show Related Press Julia Stoschek Collection celebrates 10 years with generation spanning video show 13 June 2017, The Art Newspaper

Julia Stoschek opened her collection of time-based media art to the public ten years ago, and to celebrate the anniversary she has invited the British artist Ed Atkins to curate an exhibition from her holdings. Generation Loss: 10 Years of the Julia Stoschek Collection (until 10 July 2018) opened this week at Stoschek's Düsseldorf gallery.

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