Lynda Benglis, latex floor painting, Rhode Island, 1969
Arriving on the New York art scene in the late sixties with her poured latex and foam works, Benglis created a perfectly timed retort to the male dominated fusion of painting and sculpture that had taken place a few years earlier with the advent of Process Art and Minimalism. Known for her exploration of metaphorical, sexual and biomorphic shapes, she is deeply concerned with the physicality of form and how it affects the viewer, using a wide range of materials to render dynamic impressions of mass and surface: soft becomes hard, hard becomes soft and gestures are frozen.
In Benglis' work, the act of artistic creation is embedded in presentation of process and the movement of materials. While this can be seen as a more formalistic pursuit, within Benglis' work it becomes an act of transformation, a sort of alchemical presentation in which material presence, with a life of its own, combines with artistic manipulation as an extension of the body.
Throughout her career, Benglis has managed to balance controversy with critical interest, abstraction with content, and gesture with mass, creating a diverse body of work known for its formal and innovative qualities. The artist’s influence can be seen in the work of many younger artists working today; examples include the plastic “blobs” of Roxy Paine, the sexually suggestive props of Matthew Barney, the floor pieces of Polly Apfelbaum and the ambiguous shapes created by sculptor Franz West.