Object Lesson: Wing by Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis, Wing, 1970, Cast aluminum, 67 x 59 ¼ x 60 in., New Orleans Museum of Art, 2015.123, Museum purchase with funds provided by the Helis Foundation and the Frierson Art Fund, Photograph by Cheim & Read, New York, 2015.123

Lynda Benglis’s art is simultaneously subtle and imposing, subdued and sensual, earthy and surreal. In the 1960s, the Louisiana native shocked the New York art world with her electric-hued sculptures and provocative video and performance work, whose vibrant colors and free-form compositions ran counter to the more austere aesthetic of much art of the time. Benglis transformed colors and materials often derisively dismissed as merely decorative or feminine into works of art that often referenced the Carnival traditions of her Louisiana childhood, and challenged the male-dominated art world.

Benglis created her early sculptures, which she called “fallen paintings,” by dripping and pouring industrial materials like latex and polyurethane directly on gallery floors or upon armatures installed on museum walls. Wing, a large scale aluminum sculpture cast from one of these poured pieces, extends dramatically out from the wall to enter into the space of the viewer, engaging the body and all of the senses to highlight female strength and visibility and explore, as Benglis says, “the way we experience the world through the body.”

Lynda Benglis, Fling, Dribble, Drip, February 27, 1970, Image from LIFE magazine, Photograph by Henry Groskinsky

Nearly forty years after Benglis debuted Wing during NOMA’s landmark 1977 exhibition Five From Louisiana, the sculpture entered NOMA’s permanent collection in as a crowning achievement of one of Louisiana’s most celebrated artists.

Katie Pfohl, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

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