Cheim & Read is pleased to present Lynda Benglis: Lagniappe Series, a group of mixed media sculptures, at this year’s edition of The Art Show, which will take place at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, November 3 - 6, 2022.
“Lagniappe” is a regional term from the artist’s native Louisiana that means “a little something extra.” Each sculpture is a unique variation on one of two basic forms: a vessel bulging in the middle and tapering at the ends, and a flexible tube that might call to mind a snake, a hose, or an arm. The works were made in two consecutive series, Lagniappe I (1978) and Lagniappe II (1979), in collaboration with the papermaker A. Lynn Forgach.
Using molds that Benglis initially made for bronze sculptures — one for Lagniappe I and a different one for Lagniappe II — the artist would cast two forms of intensely pigmented paper for the main body of each work and then assemble them into a single shape. While some of the sculptures were left untouched after this process, Benglis coated the majority in a dizzying array of acrylic colors, gold leaf, and glitter. The final step — in most, though not all of the works — is the addition at the top or bottom of a flouncy poof of polypropylene.
The artist’s devotion to, and experimentation with, her materials is well known. Her use of polychrome forms and reflective surfaces relates as much to the tinsel and spangles of Mardi Gras as it does to the icon paintings of the Greek Orthodox Church, with their gold leaf backgrounds and bejeweled frames. With the Lagniappe series, she transforms the ebullience of New Orleans’s parade-filled, weeks-long, ostensibly religious celebration into an incandescent fusion of the sacred and profane.
The shiny, blossoming polypropylene conjures up imaginings of the wild headwear flaunted by Mardi Gras krewes, as well as foaming bursts of champagne, ballerinas’ tutus, fireworks, floral blossoms, or the blastoff of a rocket ship, while the ever-shifting, multi-colored cast-paper bodies recall everything from snails to angels. The two basic shapes — the vessel and the tube — with their bulges, squeezes, and thrusts, also reflect the body-centric, humanistic outlook that has been a hallmark of Benglis’s career. Their unrestrained joyousness revel in ecstatic, even erotic abandon — shimmering, airy, and brimming with a zest for life at its most uproarious.
Works from the two Lagniappe Series are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; The Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; The Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; The Seattle Art Museum, WA; The Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Miami Dade College Museum of Art and Design, FL; and The University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, WY.
Lynda Benglis (born 1941, Lake Charles, LA) currently lives and works in New York and Santa Fe. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece; and The Kistefos-Museet, Jevnaker, Norway. Her work is also included in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.