I am not going to rehash Lynda Benglis’ career, (for that see Roberta Smith’s NYT review of the New Museum Show), but she has been around for a long time, and had a controversial start. The first time I saw Benglis’ work was in a private collection in the nineties, and the work was about fabric. She obviously is interested in material and process, and the glass masks in Texas Gallery’s show refer to African masks, which in turn connects the work to the history of Modern art. Benglis is from Louisiana, and has named each piece after small towns there. Benglis’ Louisiana heritage, as well as the bright colors of the masks, bring to mind Mardi Gras masks, as well. They also recall Greek amphora in their form, and many have the effect of Cycladic figures from the Greek Bronze Age.
The pieces are hung high on the walls, like trophy heads on display. Their installation further accentuates their “object-hood” and connects the work to her career-long rejection of standard presentation.
The only review I have seen of the work dismisses it as pretty, and I guess by extension, shallow. The Glasstire mention reads like a dismissal.
So here is my question. What is wrong with pretty? And does the rejection of something as pretty highlight the obviously still current societal attitudes that Benglis has spent her entire career rejecting?
Lynda Benglis’ show at Texas Gallery is up until July 30. The work is pretty. Go see it.
Melissa Grobmyer is founding partner of MKG Art Management in Houston.