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Last Call: Lynda Benglis' Traveling Exhibit At MoCA

D. Asal Ehsanipour |
September 26, 2011 | 8:30 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Lynda Benglis in Life Magazine's "Fling, Dribble, Drip' (Courtesy of the Museum Of Contemporary Art)
Lynda Benglis in Life Magazine's "Fling, Dribble, Drip' (Courtesy of the Museum Of Contemporary Art)
Women draped in silk scarves and men posed in thick-rimmed glasses; older mothers and grandmothers holding their children's hands; the scruffy and clean-shaven. Men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds joined together to contemplate the pieces featured in Lynda Benglis’ traveling exhibit, located at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Downtown Los Angeles until October 10.

The retrospective features Benglis’ work from the past 20 years.  Her entire repertoire is currently at MoCA; everything from the outrageous pieces which first compelled the New York art scene in the 1960s to pieces never exhibited before. Her most infamous 1974 Artforum advertisement, in which she poses in the full-frontal nude with a dildo defiantly jutting from between her legs, shares a space with lesser known works, including formless metallic sculptures shaped from chicken wire splashed with glitter. 

Needless to say, Benglis is an icon in the contemporary art scene; a woman whose work has been labelled both “post-minimalist” and “anti-illusion.” She beat Jackson Pollock at his own craft when she borrowed his technique, “Fling, Dribble, Drip,” which subsequently landed her a cover centerfold in Life Magazine and solidified her status as an outspoken female artist in a male-dominated art culture.

Though Benglis does not explicitly identify with the feminist movement, it remains clear that she understands the weight of her art presented in such a context.  She sets a precedent in borrowing techniques from some of the best male artists of her time, ranging from Pollock to Robert Morris. 

Benglis almost mocks gender roles and elicits unanswered questions of sexuality. Her multimedia piece, “Female Sensibility,” features Benglis herself engaging physically with another woman. She uses herself as a nude subject again in her “Secret” Polaroid series. A Lynda Benglis exhibit means genitalia and nudity everywhere. Phallic imagery is so prominently used in Benglis’ art that one is forced to reconsider the exhibit for its sexual undertones maybe gone unnoticed during the first walk-through; everything can be re-examined in terms of sex.

Though sex is a dominant theme in Benglis’ work, her range of influences span from Abstract Expressionism to East Asian lamp decoration. She has pieces which ooze glitter, demonstrate carnival-like imagery, and challenge religion, such as in her “Primary Structures.” Her rarely exhibited “Phantom”, a series of five glow-in-the-dark sculptures hung from the wall, is a masterpiece of sorts. MoCA successfully highlights the continuous juxtaposition throughout Benglis’ work.

Benglis’ retrospective exhibit is effortlessly thought-provoking. It eerily and authentically blurs socially constructed boundaries; straight and queer, sex and art, and minimalism vs. an audacious use of color. All who are brave enough to endure such a redefinition of “art” are encouraged to catch this exhibit before its departure on October 10. You won’t want to miss it, Los Angeles. Trust me.

See below for a podcast clip with Benglis.


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