Widewalls: Lynda Benglis Explores the Theme of Excavation at Blum & Poe

May 14, 2022

Eli Anapur

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The theme of excavation presupposes exploration of the past, of something that has been sedimented over the years, both in material and immaterial ways. It is also an act of stripping, revealing, and changing that brings new perspectives and revelations.

The upcoming exhibition of Lynda Benglis' art at Blum & Poe focuses on excavation, but in this case, of a lifetime of the intellectual and tangible output of the artist. The exhibition goes back into Benglis's past to make new history by furthering her explorations of the form of the knot and the gestural. The presentation materializes through the exchange of positive and negative space through cast making.

Towering Knots

A form repeating in Lynda Benglis' art is the knot. Spiraling, rising, and cascading, her sculptures show knots in various levels of completeness. They are never entirely tight and are in constant possibility of being unraveled. Art critic John Perreault once famously declared that Benglis' sculptures, showing the gesture of the knot, are "too garish to be pretty and too beautiful to be vulgar."

Although the aim to be beautiful is not of much consequence to artists in general, this is yet an interesting comment, as it translated the burning anticipation of the works that seem on the brink of resolving, but the resolve keeps eluding them. The ambiguity is not hidden but clearly underscored, and it relates to the change in perception when it comes to the tropes of woman's work.

The artist took the theme of knot from her own crocheting experience with her grandmother, putting herself in a long lineage of craft and women's work. However, the artist transforms it from a utilitarian form to an art object, thus emphasizing the often rigid delineations between arts and crafts, which often excluded women's work from greater aesthetic appreciation.

Exhibited Works

Power Tower from 2019 is a seven-and-a-half-foot sculpture of flashy White Tombasil bronze. As the title suggests, the piece holds power in its imposing physicality, although its origins are quite humble.

The Elephant Necklaces ceramics is another group of works from which the larger sculptures in the exhibition take their forms. The contrast between ceramic and bronze points to broader issues that subtend these works, such as gender and class struggles and fraught pluralist ideals. The works show to viewers that the contrast of soft and hard, delicate and strong, exist everywhere, including themselves.

Lynda Benglis inquired into the surface aesthetics throughout her career, and the exhibition examples this tendency. The selected works with reflective surfaces force viewers to gaze at themselves and others and are also evocative of socioeconomic divides through the perceived value of materials. Her early works were covered in glitter, while later pieces were sprayed with a metallic layer of aluminum, copper, or tin, emphasizing the decorative as opposed to the austere.


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BLUM Los Angeles is closed for installation until Saturday, March 16.