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Lynda Benglis Photo

Lynda Benglis

American Sculptor, Painter, Conceptual and Performance Artist

Born: October 25, 1941 - Lake Charles, Louisiana
"I can't deny anything the viewer reads into the work; that is the viewer's pleasure, hopefully. I am a permissive artist. I allow things to happen. I believe the viewer is half the work. Duchamp said it and I believe it."
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Lynda Benglis
"I just wanted to go beyond, and create something that was visually more. I was interested in excess, buoyancy, weight, gesture of material. It was very different from abstract expressionism."
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Lynda Benglis
"I think mediums are all about form. They're mediums that I can make sketch as I think of myself as doing drawings and paintings in these different mediums. I think of them as forms from nature, about nature and having illusion. Some are dependent on the walls, some are dependent on the floor and some are outside pieces."
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Lynda Benglis
"My work is an expression of space. What is the experience of moving? Is it pictorial? Is it an object? Is it a feeling? It all comes from my body. [...] I am the form."
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Lynda Benglis
"The method of pouring latex directly onto the floor was, for Benglis, a pragmatic solution to what she considered to be an illogical attachment to a rectilinear ground. The constrictions of the conventional painting format prohibited the kinds of composition she sought to achieve with her material processes; by attending to the interactions of color on color, rather than color on canvas, she effectively dissolved the two-dimensional surface and its assertion as a physical ground."
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Susan Richmond on Lynda Benglis' "fallen paintings"
"The images of Benglis producing her large-scale sculptures [...] aggressively stage the act of production."
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Amelia Jones
"Whether you have been watching Ms. Benglis's varied career for decades or know her primarily from the latex pieces and her star turn in Artforum, this exhibition pulls together and elaborates her remarkable career in a thrilling way. It proves her work to be at once all over the place and very much of a piece, as well as consistently, irrepressibly ahead of its time. This would seem to be every renegade artist's dream."
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Roberta Smith on Lynda Benglis' career

Summary of Lynda Benglis

Though best-described as a sculptor, Lynda Benglis is impossible to align with a single movement or medium. In 1968, she began pouring latex or polyurethane foam onto the floor of her studio and into the corners. The resulting forms were both painterly and sculptural. By the 1970s she was casting these works in bronze and incorporating other metals in unusual combinations. Furious when her innovations were ignored by the New York art world, she posed for an outrageous advertisement for an upcoming exhibition of her work, oiled up, wearing nothing but sunglasses, and brandishing an enormous dildo. This infamous act of protest, a deservedly unforgettable moment in Feminist art history, made Benglis famous but failed to call attention to the artist's superb sculptures. Only over the past decade has Benglis begun to receive recognition as a major contributor to late-20th- and 21st-century art.


  • Benglis was the first artist to make sculptures out of paint, eliminating the boundary between painting and sculpture - two traditionally separate art forms.
  • Benglis's work is a continuation of the Abstract Expressionist tradition of dripping and pouring pigment from above. She takes the process one step further, however, eliminating the canvas and pouring directly onto the floor, allowing the walls and corners to shape the piece.
  • In her use of candy colors, glitter and other craft materials, she distanced herself from the serious, brooding color and macho materials used by her contemporaries. In doing so, she sought to question traditional gendered distinctions in art, above all the opposition between art and craft.
  • Her willingness to use her own body in art films and play stereotypically feminine roles (her pornstaresque appearance in Artforum in 1974, for example) paved the way for Cindy Sherman and other artists who specialize in experimental role play, and ushered in a new era in self-portraiture.

Biography of Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis Photo

The eldest of five children, Lynda Benglis was born into a Greek-American family and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her mother was the daughter of a preacher from Mississippi. Her father ran a business selling building materials, an early influence on her work: "I'm a real fan of surfaces. My father ... had samples of colors and plastics and laminates and woods in his car. I was always very interested."

Important Art by Lynda Benglis

Fallen Painting (1968)

This work is around 30ft long and dates from a breakthrough period in Benglis's career. The artist poured latex rubber pigment in brightly-colored hues onto the floor of her studio. Unlike conventional oil or acrylic paint, the rubber remained in the shape of the artist's spill, preserving her gesture, and needed no canvas. It was a self-sufficient artwork. As Susan Richmond points out, "each pour was the product of a complex choreography, necessitating a balance of spontaneity and precision, not to mention physical endurance, as the artist frequently wielded five-gallon cans of the pigmented medium." The resulting form is sculptural; it is meant to be exhibited on the floor, and takes up a significant portion of the space in which the work is exhibited. For feminist scholar and art historian Amelia Jones, Fallen Painting is about "the depravity of the fallen woman", and resembles a "prone victim of phallic male desire."

Now (1973)

Lynda Benglis made several video pieces in the 1970s, when she was working at the University of Rochester and could use the school's equipment. Now is the most well-known of these works, and made a significant impact on the field of video art and critical theory. The screen shows the artist standing in front of a monitor, viewing another recording of herself inside it. These dual versions of the artist talk throughout the film, while the artist's voice can be heard in an additional voiceover. Throughout the film, these three different versions of the artist shout instructions and questions, such as: "now!", "now?", "start recording", and "do you wish to direct me?" The theme of auto-eroticism is palpable. At one point Benglis French-kisses her double inside the monitor. The overall effect is disorienting, yet sensuous, beckoning the viewer into the self-referential world of the video. It was the inspiration for Rosalind Krauss' seminal essay on video art, 'Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism.' (1976) As Krauss acknowledged, Benglis had broken new ground in examining how the artist's voice and image might act as subject, object, and raw material for the artwork.

Psi (1973)

One of a series of works named after letters of the Greek alphabet, Psi is a sculptural knot made from various materials. Its twisting shapes are heavily reminiscent of organs or intestines. The momentum inherent in its never-ending form takes the eye on an endless journey. Like Now (1973), Benglis' film of the same year, it is self-referential, self-contained, and apparently infinite. Here the use of glitter, a distinctly "girlish" material, invites the viewer to consider the work from a gendered perspective, but is simultaneously confrontational about why the viewer makes assumptions about the gendering of the material in the first place.

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Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Ruth Epstein

"Lynda Benglis Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Ruth Epstein
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First published on 07 Dec 2015. Updated and modified regularly
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