Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Linda Benglis at the New Museum

Lynda Benglis

Currently up at the New Museum, there is a collection of Linda Benglis' most accredited work over her extensive career. The works range from monumental, expressive sculptures, to video art, to photographic series, to highly decorative wax relief sculptures. The first thing that strikes you is the magnitude of substance that constitutes her abstract sculptures. Their application is apparent in it's intent to mimic bodily functions. I really appreciated her color palette, finding it to be very similar to my own preferences.
The video art she had projected on the wall I have to admit was a little off putting at first. It is only when I look at it through feminist art theory that it begins to spark any interest. The footage is of her and a female lover passionately kissing accompanied by a soundtrack of an old country song sung by a male voice. By doing this Benglis is able to reverse the gaze by not only controlling her own performance of her own sexuality, but also having control over the editing and sound mixing that determines how the viewer experiences the piece. She takes an activity that has typically been exploited by a male and takes control into her own hands. The song states as follows in a male voice "Oh tell me how much can a man need a woman, well that's how much i need you..." then a woman, but what will you give me?" "what will i give you?" She creates an interesting contrast between a display of female homosexuality with a misogynist soundtrack behind it.

The pieces that did grab me the most were her series of multicolored wax on strips of wood that adorned the walls. She applies the materials in such a sensitive, yet natural manner, creating different layers of contrasting and correlating colors, that seem dreamlike yet oddly familiar and organic at the same time.
I'm really glad that I did get to see this show before it came down, as I felt an innate kinship with Lynda and her work as soon as I saw it. I completely agree with her sculpting abilities, from her use of color, to form, to subject matter. Her film work is a little less agreeable, and I remain neutral about her photographs. I would like to file her abilities into my personal arsenal of knowledge for future inspiration and historical context.