Fool, 1980. Plaster, bronze, and gold leaf, 26 x 34 x 16.5 in.

Lynda Benglis: Material Personae

Lynda Benglis’s recent sculptures consistently direct the viewer to their material qualities. However, it is the narratives that develop in relation to the materials and shapes that are stressed in her works. As one moves from their commanding physical power to the richness of their metaphoric and emotional associations, their playful intelligence becomes more evident. Bits of cast silver or rubberized foam become sinews or smoke; the same form is like an arching human back or a crenulated piece of coral. Rooted in the structure and resistance offered by particular materials and processes, Benglis’s pieces are literal and intellectual statements about the conditions of making and artifice, or at least they begin there. King Pin III (2007), a hollow, 20-inch, torso-like shape projected off the wall, is composed of lumps and skeins of silver. Initially these elements appear like wads of chewing gum made from mercury—chaotic crud transformed into a moving surface. The amorphous lumps are too large to become homogenized into one surface, and too small to become forms on their own. These are not easy sculptures until one sees how Benglis uses the broken sheen of the surface to activate the form and untie the little blobs, creating motion across the whole shape, which one can variously read as a torso, landscape, sea creature, or pixilated bridge.