Lynda Benglis @ The Hepworth Wakefield

A new exhibition opened today at the Hepworth Wakefield, focusing on the fifty year career of Lynda Benglis. Born in America, Benglis drew on Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimal Art to create dynamic, highly body conscious works in a variety of mediums. Some of her pieces sought to set painting free from the canvas, with thick, brightly coloured forms simulating the undulating, gushing paint of artists like Jackson Pollock. In her photographic and video works, she challenged the traditional idea of the passive woman, including  presenting a controversial image of herself with an artificial cock. Benglis was also strongly influenced by her  experience of her different  homes in New Mexico, Greece and India. This resulted in a very diverse body of work.

Walking into a new exhibition can lead to a wide array of initial feelings from surprise and delight to bafflement and disappointment. My instant reaction to Benglis’ work was to find a huge smile on my face. She uses colour and form  to create some astonishing effects and this makes  her art  a joy to be around. A sense of freedom and release seems to touch everything, from the beautiful, Grecian flower-like columns to the latex creations spreading out on the floor like a weirdly attractive mud slide. Nothing here feels thrown together or random and yet not nor is anything held back. The sheer variety of her work demonstrates an admirable openness to the world around her. Walking around this exhibition is like taking a stroll through an ever changing, beguiling and surprising landscape. My favourite part were the works influenced by her time in Greece. They are classically beautiful, playful and mysterious. Throughout the show, I was struck by how modern it all  still feels.

Benglis’ creations makes a perfection companion to Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures. Indeed, it is possible to imagine some of them as the more playful daughters of Hepworth’s elegant creations. Both artists seem to invite us not to be frightened of the world around us or of our own physical existence. Both seem to lead us from fear to freedom. This an outstanding show that left me feeling very happy.

Also on at the Hepworth at the moment is Sculpting the Line, a smaller exhibition exploring the links between sculpture and print. Hepworth herself created beautiful abstract prints and some of these are presented alongside work by a wide range of other artists. The standout pieces for me were Bernard Meadows’ Malloy Plate IV featuring bulbous, androgynous forms and Edaurdo Paolozzi’s B.A.S.H (Blue), an eye catching example of British Pop Art.

The Hepworth is always  a  pleasure  for me to visit as it is one of my favourite buildings in Yorkshire. Drawing on her work for  inspiration, it is a work of art in itself

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The Hepworth Wakefield (1)

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The Hepworth Wakefield (2)

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Barbara Hepworth – The Family of Man

The gallery  has several new exhibitions  upcoming this year. With the Lynda Benglis show, it has got 2015 off to a very good start indeed.

Damian

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