Lynda Benglis explored many different kinds of mediums and in the current MOCA show, the works range from sculpture in stainless steel, clay, cast bronze, and beeswax (to name just a few) to photography, video, and performance art. As you can see from the above I am going to focus on the sculptural aspects of the show.
In a "man's" world, Benglis was breaking down barriers using materials that were not only nontraditional in the world of art making, but especially unusual for a woman. While the pieces are abstract there is a constant referral to the body and it's shape, movement, and implied actions.
In the first grouping above, beeswax forms a kind of reverse honeycomb that alludes to a spine or skeletal form. At the same time there is sensuousness to the material, with wide ranging color that gives the figures an emotional impact, a bit like seeing chakras on display. The elongated shapes with their pine cone like sections are mysterious yet familiar; they elicit a visceral desire to touch or consume, perhaps because we subconsciously relate the beeswax to a creature that we associate with the production of complex structures and a nectar that we appropriate to consume.
The next group of images relates to pieces made of stainless steel, painted in gold. Again, there is a reference not only to the human body but to other mammals as well. Caterpillar like accordion sections ripple like material, while spread wings have a feathery feel. Curving feminine torsos with a protective scarab shell, are floating and flying body armor that takes one back to Greek mythologies.
Next we come to the hanging masses and piles of poo sculptures. Attached to walls, these sculptures look heavy hanging in impossible ways, defying gravity with their molten lava shapes. As if they’ve been extricated from an archeological dig, the pieces protrude into space, frozen in time. The oozing conglomeration on the floor feels like the remains of a bodily function, a puddle that was at one time something else. What you see is a result of something that happened. As before, both of these forms, whether hanging in mid air or plopped on the floor, these pieces make you think of the body in either their shape or implied action.
The fourth group of pics shows pieces that are egg like orbs or larvae trellises. The orbs are almost translucent and the areas the spot lights touch upon make it appear that the orbs are lit from within. They have a hard plasticy feel yet as they extrude from the wall they seem lightly suspended. As if they were shot through space from Mars and buried deep within the earth, they manage to appear organic and alien at the same time. The implication of fertility via the eggness of the round and oval pieces is carried over into the pieces that crawl across the wall.
Finally there are the “The Three Graces,” three cast polyurethane vessels standing 8 ½ feet tall. Translucent and pink, one vase births another until the top is left with an open orifice. A combination of crystal, geode, egg, and flower, they are ancient totems carved from rock palaces deep beneath the earth’s surface and they seem to contain the origin of the mysteries of life.
The show runs through October 10 at MOCA.