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Lynda Benglis at the National Gallery of Art

December 31, 2021
Comet, 1982, Lynda Benglis
Comet, 1982, Lynda Benglis

I feel like the people who do the lighting for sculptures at museums should get credit on the little cards next to the artwork. Offering recognition seems like a good insurance policy for lighting with cool shadows, right? Otherwise, your amazing sculpture could end up in the lighting equivalent of the restaurant table by the bathroom.

Or maybe the people who do sculpture lighting are professionals satisfied with their salaries and not interested in staking a claim to art history. Luckily for the world, those job placement quizzes and guidance counselors in high school never pegged me for “Light Design and Unsung-Artist Vigilante.”

Someone did an amazing job lighting Lynda Benglis’s sculptures at the National Gallery of Art. I got rather caught up in all the views of “Moonglow Four, 1985.”

Trust me, I took far more pictures than what I posted above.

Lynda Benglis is an American artist from Lake Charles, Louisiana, a state whose name I have never been able to spell correctly absent outside assistance. Benglis has been making art for the world since the 1960s.

Phool, 1980, Lynda Benglis
Phool, 1980, Lynda Benglis

The sculpture “Phool, 1980” (above) was the one that got me going on about shadows. I’ll refrain from making extremely uneducated statements about the folded gold and the shadows created. You’re welcome. However, I’ll note that one of the many benefits of showing up at the National Gallery of Art right after they open on a Friday morning during winter number three of the global coronavirus pandemic is that I got the whole collection to myself. I stared at “Phool” for a while. I investigated the sculpture with the wary caution of every local who is mortified when they set off the proximity alarms protecting the artwork.

I was enamored of “Jeantaud, 1986” (below). If someone hasn’t made a Met Gala red carpet dress or suit out of something that looks like “Jeantaud, 1986,” that needs to be done asap.

Of course, there were more sculptures in the Lynda Benglis exhibit. The above were just my four favorites. I was planning to wrap up my ogling and make a mad dash for the West Building with all the less-modern stuff. Then Ms. Benglis introduced me to a completely new type of artwork.

Painting with beeswax!

What? Yes! It was pretty cool.

Here is “Red Zip on Purple Cross, 1993-1994.”

Red Zip on Purple Cross, 1993-1994, Lynda Benglis
Red Zip on Purple Cross, 1993-1994, Lynda Benglis

And here is “Untitled, 1967-1968,” which I desperately wanted to name, but all I could think is “That’s painted with colored beeswax! Colored beeswax!”

Untitled, 1967-1968, Lynda Benglis
Untitled, 1967-1968, Lynda Benglis

The Lynda Benglis exhibit is on its way out, but a selection of photos of the pieces is available on the National Gallery of Art’s website. The online photos may not have shadows, but they are still awesome.

Comet, 1982, Lynda Benglis
Comet, 1982, Lynda Benglis

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