PRINT November 2004


Lynda Benglis

“Vulgarity is gendered, of course.”1

—T.J. Clark

WHEN I TEACH AMERICAN ART of the 1970s, there is one work that always stops the class cold: Lynda Benglis’s ad from the November 1974 issue of Artforum. College students who respond matter-of-factly to other controversial works from the period––Vito Acconci masturbating beneath the floorboards of the Sonnabend gallery or Chris Burden’s having himself shot with a .22-caliber rifle––are visibly (and, on occasion, audibly) taken aback by the image of Benglis, naked and greased with oil, extending a dildo from her vagina. In contrast to the photographs that survive of Acconci’s Seedbed, 1972, or Burden’s Shoot, 1971, Benglis’s image does not document a performance so much as it enacts one, a performance of pornography that doubles as a brazen commentary on the marketing of contemporary art and the public exposure of the artist.

Beyond an expanse

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