Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Organic Gesture and Flashy Flutterings

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Organic Gesture and Flashy Flutterings

Article excerpt

THE Art Now column spotlights art that is so new it has not yet been labeled. The art of Lynda Benglis is not new. She has been a respected, high-visibility New York artist for nearly three decades; her public works of sculpture dot sites across the United States, her work is in the permanent collections of major US and European museums, and last year she was the subject of a major career retrospective. Benglis's art is not too new for labels; it is showcased here because it has consistently defied labels.

Benglis hit the art scene in the late '60s when women artists, especially sculptors, wanted to bring back to art references to nature and natural processes. These artists wanted to reinvest art with the emotion and poetry deemed "superfluous" by the male-dominated art movement called Minimalism that held art in an icy thrall during the late '60s and early '70s. Minimalism spawned such works as those large metal squares we've all seen propped on gallery floors; it was an aesthetic movement that took the saying "less is more" to heart.

Benglis and other women (and a few men) artists led the quiet revolt against the spartan geometry of Minimalism. With irreverent defiance, Benglis began making sculptures out of things like free-form sandstone globs or random shapes made from liquefied wax or latex spilled and left to harden. Her sculpted torsos encrusted with glitter rank among the first so-called feminist art works.

But Benglis's aims were broader than gender. These self-consciously tacky and wacky techniques had the serious intention of reintroducing into contemporary art the elements of spontaneity, decoration, and gesture which have comprised the language of art since its inception.

In 1980, Benglis piled all these artistic goals into her signature style: the now unmistakable Benglis "knots." Benglis makes wall-hung fluttering knots of pleated metal that resemble little gold, silver, or bronze label pins, but are actually often six feet in length.

Benglis begins by bending, coiling, pleating, and knotting wire infrastructures of stainless steel. She then plates the wire with painstaking layers of nickel, zinc, copper, or chrome - a process that one could liken to gold leafing on a thicker scale. …

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