New York

Lynda Benglis

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

No longer is LYNDA BENGLIS off the wall. No longer dispersed. No longer scattershot. She’s still a sculptor, however, and as such operates like Paladino the painter. While he paints real grounds and virtual figures protruding, Benglis just worries about the figures.

Like many artists in New York, Benglis’ work was visibly affected by Margit Rowell’s Planar Dimension exhibition at the Guggenheim in 1979. Seems that after that show, lots of painters made canvases that began to grow in relief from the wall, while sculptors pushed their volumes into the wall. Benglis may be up against the wall now, though she continues sassily to make wall pieces that refuse to be flat.

Her particolored cast-paper reliefs are like Elizabeth Murray protozoa in 3-D. These rainbows of cellular sprawl populate the wall not unlike territories burgeoning on a map. Other artists are currently working in this cast-paper method (Ron Gorchov and Barbara Schwartz, most notably) but Benglis does it quite differently. Her cells have no walls, and threaten a complete takeover. This is the realm of monster movies: amoeboid creatures putting up stakes on any available wall. Gorchov’s and Schwartz’s reliefs, by contrast, are discreet and self-possessed.

By far more delicious than Benglis’ candy-colored amoebas are her gilded lilies, to be more precise, gold-leaf fans and ruffles on the wall, resting quietly between the brilliantly colored reliefs. These crimped and painted gold shapes are far more dynamic than Benglis’ rainbow ectoplasms. Because their shapes are defined instead of amorphous, they have solidity and dignity—even though they’re painted the most frivolously allusive of metallic colors. Benglis’ amoebas camouflage her intentions; her ruffles are simple—and elegant—statements.

Carrie Rickey