SUMMER 2007, WM Issue #4: Lynda Benglis Louise Bourgeois CIRCA 70

SUMMER 2007, WM Issue #4: Lynda Benglis Louise Bourgeois CIRCA 70
Louise Bourgeois in her Chelsea home, photo: Duane Michaels

Lynda Benglis Louise Bourgeois CIRCA 70

June 21 to August 31, 2007

Cheim & Read

547 West 25th Street

New York, NY


 I assume that what Louise Bourgeois (born 1911) meant when she explained to me that color wasn’t the first thing that we saw when we looked at a work of art was that at first, we encounter form. When looking at the wall sculpture, “Amoeba,” 1963-65, bronze, painted white, 37 ½ x 28 ½ x 13 1/4 inches, our minds associate form with a somewhat animistic and primordial curiosity. We then translate the form into a species or a gender, but not before we feel an emotional sensation. 

 The rules of the game with modern art is that if it is abstract, whether or not a form reminds us of something or not, that becomes irrelevant. Modernism spells emotion and a primal response to the initial formation of an idea. “Avenza,” 1968-69, latex, 21 x 30 x 46 inches may allude to phallic symbols clustered together, but our response to this sculpture may be to circle it and gage as to whether it is predatory or safe. Only after our initial hesitation, do we begin to relate to it as a work of art.

 The artist may be creating a modern sculpture or a painting and subconscious symbols and pictorial thoughts may invade, but color only registers after a form takes on human attributes. Then, a personality and a sensitivity to an assertion of form occurs. We are a long way from that during the initial creation of a modern work of art and there is a reason for it.

 Modern art is an attempt to expand our consciousness in order to re-introduce us to the process of creating a painting or making a sculpture in the classic, figurative sense. Louise Bourgeois and Lynda Benglis have sacrificed their lives in order to liberate us from the confines of the progenators of the art of the past when humanity was oppressed by the egoism of its oppressors. The cost, let’s say, during the reign of Louis XIV, of producing the tapestries of Gobelins, “The History of the King,” celebrating the glory of the Sun King, may have been equivalent to producing one of our nuclear submarines. 

 Lynda Benglis (born 1941) has made a major contribution to the art scene and has taught for many years at The School of Visual Arts. Hers is a psychological approach to making art where suddenly you see a giant poured sculpture, “Eat Meat,” 1969/75, bronze, 24 x 80 x 54 inches or “Quartered Meteor,” 1969, lead, 57 ½ x 65 ½ x 64 1/4 inches and your association is immediate and uncontrollable. Her encaustic sculptures like “Karen,” 1972, wax on plaster, 36 x 5 x 3 inches are colorful. Layer after layer of colors in fact create a rainbow effect with a preponderance of yellow and green. While simple in format, the lozenge shapes are elongated and oval. The effect of layering tinted wax are varigated formations of colors blending into two predominant colors.

 In this show, sculptures were mostly completed between 1967 and 1974. We can smell the wood dust, hot wax and pigment of the artists’ studios and nostalgically imagine how fascinating life was during the 1970's in lower Manhattan. The painter, John Willenbecher exhibited on 57th Street with Louise Bourgeois at Hamilton Gallery. He remembers the time period very vividly. It was an academic period for us which went unacknowledged in Europe. 

 Philippe Petit, who walked on a tightrope in between the two towers of the World Trade Center was another matter. Bourgeois did many tamer and much smaller, table top sculptures like her “Untitled,” 1970-72, bronze, consisting of five elements 6 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches and “The Fingers,” 1968, bronze; two parts, 3 x 12 1/8 x 8 inches. Fredericka Hunter of the Texas Gallery in Houston, Texas attended this opening. They are lending their Peter Youngs and Joanna Pousette-Darts to P.S.1 for an upcoming exhibition. 


whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Claudia Schwalb

Schwalb graduated from Pratt Institute in 1974.  She was an emerging artist during the Minimalist movement in the 1970's.  She was raised in New York City during the Abstract Expressionist era. Claudia was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at The Clocktower/P.S.1 in 1977.  Claudia went on to write for Barbara Rose's Journal of Art and was one of the Contributing Editors of Cover/Arts New York along with John Yau and Judd Tully (Editor-at-Large for Arts & Auction).  She was Curator of the Knitting Factory and a television news transcriber for Peter Jennings' World News Tonight.  Subsequently, Claudia transcribed two movies, "Refuge" and "Interview with the Dalai Lama" which played at the Quad last year.

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