They Live! The Irresistible Art of Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis, Phantom, 1971. Copyright Lynda Benglis. DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2009

Are they paintings? Sculptures? Installation art maybe? The art of Lynda Benglis arose during the late 1960s, a time when boundaries between media were breaking down and new hybrid forms were being created.

Production still from Art21 segment on Lynda Benglis. *

In art history texts Benglis is often associated with Process Art, a style in which the way a piece is made is an integral aspect of its aesthetic. Richard Serra flung molten metal against the floor. Eva Hesse dipped skeins of rope in latex. Benglis also used non-traditional materials, but eschewed the raw industrial look in favour of vibrant colours, and shiny or shimmering surfaces.

Image via LIFE archives.
A LIFE magazine spread from 1970 features the artist pouring latex and pigments onto the floor for an installation at the University of Rhode Island. The resulting candy coloured ooze has the deliciously visceral quality that marks all of her works.

Many  of Benglis's best known pieces were created through strategic pours of pigmented polyurethane foam. In Totem, 1971, red, pink and black forms appear to rise, their organic shapes suggesting otherworldly birds evolving from primordial matter.

Lynda Benglis, Totem, 1971. Pigmented polyurethane foam (destroyed). *

Lynda Benglis, Wing, 1970
Cast aluminum; 170.2 x 150.5 x 152.4 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York
The bird reference appears again in Wing, made from cast aluminum. So compellingly tactile are these works that the temptation to touch is stymied only by one's ingrained awareness that this is an art world no-no.

A 2009 article in Art in America provides fascinating insight into how such uncanny works were created for a 1971 Walker Art Center installation with the oddly prosaic title Adhesive Products.

Lynda Benglis, Adhesive Products, Walker Art Center, 1971. As installed (left) and work in progress (right).

Creatures From Another Dimension would seem a more apt title, but perhaps Benglis wanted to leave such associations up to the viewer.

Lynda Benglis, Biloxi, 2013.
 Glazed ceramic. 
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

Benglis is drawn to malleability and has worked with fabric, steel mesh and most recently, ceramics. Biloxi, pictured above, has that lovely squishy quality and enticing colour palette that runs as a leitmotif throughout so much of her work.

Never one to shy away from breaking barriers, Benglis is also renown, nay infamous, for a provocative ad she placed in ArtForum in 1974. If you're curious you can read all about that art world scandal here.

* Images from