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Lynda Benglis

LYNDA BENGLIS has gone her own way since first taking on the New York art world in the 1960s. She one-upped Jackson Pollock’s action paintings in the late 1960s by pouring pools of swirling pigmented latex directly on the floor and obscuring the distinction between painting and sculpture. She challenged the rigidity of Minimalism in the early ’70s with her hardened flows of polyurethane careening off walls and bristling with allusions to the body and landscape. She lampooned both the machismo of the art world and the way artists were expected to promote themselves in a market-driven system by exposing herself, with a dildo between her legs, in a 1974 Art forum advertisement that she paid for, earning her as many fans as detractors.  With bravado and humor she has carried her ideas to logical extremes, in a way that’s been hugely influential to a younger generation interested in everything from performance to process-oriented art. The photographer Cindy Sherman has described her college-age encounter with the Art forum ad, in all its audacity, as “one of the most pivotal moments of my career.

Born in Lake Charles, La., where her father had a building-materials business, Ms. Benglis moved to New York in 1964 after studying painting and ceramics at Newcomb College, the women’s college at Tulane University in New Orleans.  The New York art world was smaller then, and early on she met artists including Barnett Newman, Andy Warhol and David Hockney. Ms. Benglis has been both a witness to and a catalyst for changes in the artistic climate of New York, particularly the primacy of Minimalism.  These days Ms. Benglis, 69, moves between homes in Santa Fe, N.M.; East Hampton, N.Y.; New York City; Greece (where her father’s family is from); and India (home of her life partner, Anand Sarabhai).

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