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FROM THIS EPISODE

One of the most satisfying shows of contemporary art in LA is by a 77-year-old woman: Lynda Benglis.

A singular sculpture in the main gallery of Blum and Poe is proof: Hills and Clouds (2014). Above a hillock of steel scaffolding, folds of silvery metal cascade, topped by clusters of creamy polyurethane. A sculpture both purposefully erected and randomly finished, the piece nods to the controls of Modernism and the acts of chance in post-Modernism. Standing 11 by 19 feet, the sculpture also evokes the sublimity of Chinese landscape painting.

Figure4-BlumPoe.jpg
Lynda Benglis, "FIGURE 4," 2009
Aluminum; 98 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 25 inches
Edition 1 or 3
Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York/Toronto and Chem & Read New York

This is not a unique accomplishment in this show. Nearly every piece is a meld of life-long experience and experimentation with materials both new and old. Benglis coils shiny aluminum into noodles and strands that coalesce as organic shapes on the walls. They vaguely resemble elongated figures.

Thetis-BlumPoe.jpg
Lynda Benglis, "THETIS," 2017
Cast pigmented polyurethane; 51 x 35 x 17 inches
Edition 2 of 2
Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York/Toronto and Chem & Read New York

Three ovoid forms in a progression of yellow, amber and green are mounted in a row on another wall. Named after Greek goddesses Thetis, Calypso and Antheia, (2017) they are made of a cast-pigmented polyurethane that captures and reflects natural light.

Uno-BlumPoe.jpg
Lynda Benglis, "UNO (SHY FIVE)," 2016
Cast glitter on handmade paper over chicken wire; 55 x 15 x 14 inches
Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York/Toronto and Chem & Read New York

In another gallery, Benglis drapes handmade paper over chicken wire, which looks like the shed skin of a snake, to create folded and twisted wall reliefs. They are painted with iridescent pastels and glitter.

Mescalero-BlumPoe.jpg
Lynda Benglis, "MESCALERO," 2013
Glazed ceramic 12 x 12 x 8 inches
Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York/Toronto and Chem & Read New York

In the upstairs gallery, her ceramic sculptures, mostly from 2013, are glazed in subtle combinations of unexpected metallics, at times camouflaged by a searing yellow or a burnished gray. These lumpy refutations of craft have personality and the smart smack of excellence.

HillsClouds-BlumPoe.jpg
Lynda Benglis, "HILLS AND CLOUDS," 2014
Cast polyurethane with phosphorescence and stainless steel; 11 x 19 x 19 feet
Lynda Benglis/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, New York/Toronto and Chem & Read New York

Benglis emerged in the late ‘60s with her biomorphic and fluid response to hard-edged Minimalism. She poured buckets of tinted latex onto the floor, which hardened into waves and patterns of rainbow colors. A forerunner of 1970s Feminist art practice, she remains infamous for placing a notorious ad in Artforum with a color photo of her naked self holding an erect dildo in front of her pubic area. Though certainly a comment on the male-dominated art world of that time, Benglis never allowed herself to remain confined by that single definition.

She consistently explored novel ways of addressing mass and material whether a piece is on the floor, on the wall or in the landscape, as her work was most recently presented at Storm King Art Center in New York. Over the years, she has lived periodically in New York City, New Mexico and India, all of which have contributed to her ongoing exploration of materials like paper, ceramics, and variations of plastics. Flowing water, in the fountains on view at the back of Blum and Poe and referenced in some of her newest work, has been a recurrent theme for the artist. The show proves that her earliest inclinations, fluidity in fact and attitude, have been revisited and re-explored consistently without descending to redundancy. The show is late career triumph. It continues through December 16, 2017.

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