Magazine article Artforum International

Lynda Benglis

Magazine article Artforum International

Lynda Benglis

Article excerpt

This very surprising exhibition marked a decisive change in the tactics and esthetics of Lynda Benglis--presenting what at first seemed to be an artistic about-face. Gone were the opulent and lush wallbound sculptures that have marked her work since the mid '70s, those metallic rivulets and excrescences that progressively erupted from museum and gallery walls with incredible tactile boldness and irrepressible high spirits. In their place was something much leaner, a sequence of sculptures that reflect a pared-down and desiccating vision, seemingly the residue of the artist's determination to probe and experiment.

Take, for example, Snakemare I, 1991. A table-top sculpture with bronze attached to a stone base--a display system and combination of elements Benglis has never used before--it takes the form of a sinuous flow of whitened bronze, upheld at points by whitened bronze pieces that resemble chunks of metal. It rests on its little plinth like the bones of some fossilized creature, some vertebrate remnant, bent and twisted into a tortuous chain. Unsensuous, unlovely, and gnawed right down to the bone, this piece exudes a sense of willful inquiry, of a recombination of elements toward something with no patience for esthetic beauty. The snake motif becomes even more bizarre in Mea Culpa, 1992 93, which depicts a rough-hewn and clumsy three-headed serpentine hydra, one of its heads distended to devour an egg. The clay Benglis uses to make the molds for these bronzes is everywhere evident; one senses her fingers restlessly kneading these things into being. …

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