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Mnuchin Gallery is proud to announce Lynda Benglis: Pleated Works, an exhibition that will highlight the artist’s use of the pleated form from the late 1970s through the 1990s. On view from November 2nd to December 11th, the exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored by Laila Pedro. The exhibition is made in collaboration with Pace Gallery, which has represented Benglis since 2019, and Cheim & Read in New York. 

Since first gaining recognition in the late 1960s, Lynda Benglis’s work has vastly expanded upon the language of that era through a radical exploration of materials, with an emphasis on their physicality, form, and relationship to the viewer. Biomorphic and at times painterly in her approach to working in three dimensions, the formal qualities of her work underscore the tactile and visceral nature of her practice, wherein she eschews preparatory sketches in favor of more organic experimentation with her chosen media, which can be bent, poured, or sprayed to create her desired effect.

The present exhibition focuses on Benglis’s gold leaf and metallized pleats. Benglis worked on the gold leaf pleats from 1979-1982, and the metallized pleats from 1982 through the 1990s, spanning two decades of her practice. Inspired in part by the fluting and fan motifs of ancient Aegean columns she encountered during a trip to the Louvre in 1979—motifs which directly evoke Benglis’s Mediterranean heritage—the pleats began after other experimentations with fanned and knotted shapes, metallizing, and gold leaf in the early-mid 1970s. Benglis worked with various fabricators to produce these sculptures, although it was her own hand that pleated the wire mesh and knotted, tied, or twisted it into distinctive configurations that convey a sense of voluptuous form and movement. A vaporized metal such as zinc, aluminum, or copper would subsequently be sprayed over the folded mesh, creating a shell-like surface that is finally polished, although the crevices between each pleat evade that polishing, creating a contrast which accentuates the texture, volume, and varying effects of light of each sculpture. “The metallizing technique is particularly suited to Benglis’s interest in transforming states of matter, in organic processes and in the comparisons of hard/soft and liquid/solid that continue throughout her work,” art historian Susan Krane has aptly stated. [1]

While Benglis’s work defies simple, linear through-lines, one avenue of entry into understanding the pleated works lies in the physical and conceptual connotations of the fold—both the shapely weaving of materials and the Fold as understood by Gilles Deleuze. One could also view the pleats through the lens of value or industry, represented by the precious-looking metals Benglis chooses to encase her mesh shapes within. Illustrating an interplay between the crafted and the manufactured, the dynamic and the static, the fluid and the constructed, the pleats evince a disquieting beauty that is at once almost menacing in their mysterious aura and yet enduringly attractive. All taken together, the pleated works offer viewers a distilled way to venture into Benglis’s expansive oeuvre. 

Approximately 15 works will be on view, ranging in scale from 17 ½ inches high (Current, 1979) to 98 inches (Tama, 1989). Titles such as Toyopet Crown (1989) and Tonneau (1992-1993) nod to Benglis’s love of cars, while others such as Scarab (1990) and Screen (1993-1998) conjure specific images in the minds-eye of the viewer, imbuing the sculptures with both personal and formal referents. Benglis has long been interested in the play between illusion and allusion, stating, “The illusion has always been the buoyancy of something floating on waves like where the balloon is full of air or anchored like a lead piece with a hook.” [2] Art historian Anna C. Chave picked up on this when she noted, “… Benglis’s expansive, shimmering, pleated works appear buoyantly, ebulliently, kinetically fluid—like giant, artlessly tied, crinkled bows undergoing their various twists and turns.” [3]

Lynda Benglis (b. 1941, Lake Charles, Louisiana) lives and works between New York, New York, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and will be highlighted in a solo exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, in Spring 2022. Other recent solo exhibitions include Lynda Benglis: In the Realm of the Sense, Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, presented by NEON (2019-2020), and the retrospective Lynda Benglis, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Irish Museum of Art, Dublin; Le Consortium, Dijon; RISD Museum, Providence; the New Museum, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2009-2011). She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1975) and two National Endowment for the Arts Grants (1979 and 1990). Her work can be found in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, and pieces from her series of metallized pleats are in the collections of institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Muzeum Susch, Zernez, Switzerland; and the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan, among others.

1. Susan Krane, Lynda Benglis: Dual Natures (Atlanta: The High Museum of Art), 1991.
2. Lynda Benglis, phone conversation, October 6, 2021. 
3. Anna C. Chave, “Lynda Benglis: Everything Flows,” in Lynda Benglis: Everything Flows (Philadelphia: Locks Gallery, 2013), 15.

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