Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis

Greek / American
1941 -


Lynda Benglis was born in 1941. Her mother was the daughter of a Presbyterian priest from Mississippi and her father was a son of Greek immigrants from Kastelorizo. During her childhood she lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana, an area known for its petrochemical industries developed after World War II and for the large number of chemical accidents that have occurred there. Her Greek grandmother, Marigo, took her to the Acropolis for the first time when she was 11 years old and taught her how to crochet. She was later trained as a painter at the Newcomb College of the Tulane University in New Orleans and came into contact with Abstract Expressionism, but she soon began to work outside the boundaries of the canvas and redefined the way art works were exhibited. In 1964, she moved to New York and, in 1968, she lived and worked in the studio of the painter Robert Duran. In the same year she moved to her own studio and began associating with artists such as Eva Hesse, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd, Barnett Newman, Carl Andre, Jeniffer Bartlett, Michael Goldberg, Ron Gorchov and Marilyn Lenkowski. At that time and until the early 1970s, she developed a particular interest in the processing of organic form and the exploration of the sculptural procedure. She created sculptural works with vibrant colors from materials such as latex and polyurethane foam; she later worked with gold leaves, zinc and aluminum. Before even turning 30, she made an impression by regularly participating in exhibitions in New York with works that seem to call into question the power of gravity, and simultaneously oppose the geometric organization rules of minimalism and attack the patriarchal hegemony of artistic circles, which were prevalent at the time. Her work was presented for the first time at the Bykert Gallery in New York in 1968. In 1969, she participated in the exhibition Anti-illusion: Procedures and Materials at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York with creations that looked like paintings spilled on the floor. More specifically, in works such as the Fallen Painting, 1968, and the Odalisque (Hey, Hey Frankenthaler), 1969, it is evident that she made use of new techniques, allowing the colored latex to be spilled directly onto the floor and consequently mold autonomously. In the early 1970s, she adopted the term “frozen gesture” in order to metaphorically explain the performative process of the production of her works. In 1970, she taught sculpture at the University of Rochester. She later taught at other universities such as at the City University of New York, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of Arizona, the College of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Art Institute. In the same year, she came into contact with Judy Chicago’s Feminist Art Program at the California State University and developed a particular interest in the feminist movement. In 1971, she set up installations from polyurethane foam in museums and galleries in the United States such as the Kansas State University, the Vassar College in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minnesota, the Milwaukee Art Center, the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York and the MIT. A year later she started working on the series Knots as well as her first videos. In the series Knots she decorated cotton material with metallic and bright acrylic colors and glitter, referring to decorative arts as well as concepts of high and low art. Benglis’ videos, dating from 1972 to 1976, explored both the dynamics of the medium itself as well as gender stereotypes, the human body, eroticism and sexual identity, with representative works being Noise, Document, Mumble and On Screen, 1972, and Female Sensibility, 1973. In 1974, Benglis’ highly provocative and humorous attitude towards the art circulation system, dominant roles, beauty and desire stereotypes reached its climax with the publication of her famous photo by photographer Arthur Gordon, who published it in 1974 in the magazine Artforum as an advertisement for her exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery. In the photo she appeared naked, rubbed in oil and tanned, wearing only sunglasses and holding a double sized dildo between her legs. Protests by a group of editors of the magazine followed after the publication. As complaints to and from the magazine continued, she printed 50 T-shirts with the photo in question. In 1975, she created the installation Primary Structures (Paula Props) at the Paula Cooper Gallery, with evident references to her Greek ancestry and a critical stance towards the principles of Minimalism. In the same year, she was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and, in 1976, the Australian Art Council Award. In 1979, she received a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts and completed a residency in Ahmedabad, India, at a building designed by Le Corbusier. In the 1980s and 1990s, Benglis continued to fabricate intricate wall and floor pieces and experimented with other materials such as glass and ceramics. In 1984 and 1985, she worked at the New York Experimental Glass Workshop in New York and at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood. In 2000, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Kansas City Art Institute and, in 2003, she received the AICA-USA Award for Best Show at the Franklin Parrasch Gallery in New York that took place in 2002. From 2003 to 2005, Benglis produced large-scale sculptures and “fountains” made of copper, resin and polyurethane, such as The Graces, 2003 – 2005. She has held numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world, received assignments and awards and is still productive to this day. Although she mainly lives in New York, she has traveled throughout her career. Her work is featured in major collections such as at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the MoMA in New York, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center in Minnesota and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Major retrospective exhibitions of her work were organized in 2009 by the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin in collaboration with the Van Abbemuseum, the Le Consortium, the New Museum and the Rhode Island School of Design, in 2011 by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 2015 by the Hepworth Wakefield and in 2019 by the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. She lives and works in Kastellorizo, Santa Fe, the US and Ahmedabad, India.