Lynda Benglis’s exhibition: A treat for our senses

If you are an avid reader of The Art Stories you know how much respect and admiration we have for women that make it in their chosen field. Multiply that by 10 every time a female artist of Greek descent innovates with their creations and you get our enthusiasm when we were invited to the press preview of Lynda Benglis’ exhibition. It’s been a while since we’ve seen an exhibition that hit all the right spots in our soul but Lynda Benglis’ In the Realm of the Senses set the bar very high for NEON Greece. NEON is the nonprofit cultural foundation that took the initiative to bring Lynda and her works to Greece for this “mini retrospective”, as David Anfam, the exhibition’s curator called it. So, who is Lynda Benglis and what makes her exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art so special?

Lynda Benglis was born in 1941 in Louisiana and she has been creating for over 50 years now. She uses diverse materials such as wax, clay, ceramic, gold and paper to create her post-minimalist sculptures. Her art could be met at the intersection of sculpture and painting, as she often paints on clay or paper, playing with texture and colour as well as creating an illusion of movement in her works. It is hard to say whether she belongs to any particular art school given that she has experimented with so many different techniques and materials. 

From left to right: Cygnus, 1982, Wire Mesh from bronze, zinc spray, copper, aluminum, acrylic varnish, Private Collection, Athens
Greater Prairie Chicken/Lesser Prairie Chicken, 2014, Handmade paper on wired mesh, tempera, acrylic, gold leaf, 210,8 x 20,3 x 21,6 cm, Grant from the artist and Pace Gallery
Clay Boeotian statue of a woman with a priestly stand, Cycladic Museum, K. Politis Collection, number 101

One thing is for certain though; her Jackson Pollock influences, which are evident in her “fallen paintings” as we can see in Baby Contraband in the first room of the Stathatos Building. Pollock was the one that took the historical decision to use the floor as a support surface for his paintings. Lynda saw what he was doing as an Abstract Expressionist and took his idea a few steps further. She let moulded latex stay on the floor, forming what is now called the aforementioned fallen paintings. 

What is really impressive in her work is her willingness to experiment and, as a result, innovate with her materials. Tall sculptures made from polyurethane and steel exude sensuality and remind us of the ancient greek Three Graces. Her three whimsical fountains are her own version of mixing aspects of the human culture and landscapes in a sculpture that celebrates her relationship to water. For Benglis, “Louisiana is mainly water, and we are water”. Benglis was never interested to do just one thing as many of her male counterparts and that is evident throughout the exhibition.

From front to back:  Come, 1969-1974, Bronze, Version 2 of 3, 35,6 x 81,3 x 121,9 cm, Private Collection, London
Swiggle II, 1978, Wire mesh from bronze, cotton, clay, gesso, glue, gold leaf, 27,9 x 15,2 x 6,9 cm, Private Collection
Gold Luster, 1981, glazed ceramic, Edition 1 from 1HC, 73,6 x 50,8 x 11,4 cm, Private Collection
Installation view ©Πάνος Κοκκινιάς
Courtesy of NEON

Her works are fluid, sensual and colourful. You can see in her floor piece entitled Come that she is willing to explore her sexual nature as part of the human experience. Come is, at the same time, a metaphor for the human condition that starts with birth and ends with death, bringing humans back down to the place they came from. Along with her 36 sculptures the Museum of Cycladic Art kindly added 3 pieces from its collection that remind us of Benglis’ ancient Greek references. A glass stirrer that dates back to the 1st century AC compliments Bee Sting and Greater Prairie Chicken and invites our smell to a party for our senses. 

Ancient greek shapes and forms are Benglis’ bread and butter. Her pleats that remind her of the Greek bread and the golden elements of the christian orthodox are only some of the elements that highlight her relationship to Greece as part of her identity. As a reminder of the pleats seen on the clothing of Ancient Greek statues and, thus, Benglis’ greek roots, the Museum of Cycladic Art shows us a small clay part of a Boeotian statuette made in 400 BC. Meanwhile, The three knots that close the exhibition serve as proof of her love for materials that are highly transformable. She has managed to turn the initial material into something completely different, creating forms to depict the energy that flows freely into the room. Energy, sensuality, movement and water are only some of the elements that are always present in Lynda Benglis’ work that still continues to create since 1969. The constant movement of nature and humans is a focal point in her sculptures, but more than anything, it is Benglis’ artistic evolution that reminds us that everything is in flux.

Opening hours:

Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00
Thursday: 10:00 – 20:00
Sunday: 11:00 – 17:00
Tuesday: closed

Free guided tours (registration required):
Wednesday : 12:00 – 13:00
Thursday: 18:30 – 19:30

Entry fee€5