Benglis also has a strong political streak, and her early work questioned gender roles. Her video of two women making out, included in The Female Gaze, is tame by today's standards, but back then it was transgressive.
And then there was the giant dildo.
In 1974 a lean and buff Benglis had herself photographed wearing nothing but sunglasses, holding a giant latex phallus between her thighs. The photograph was meant to be part of an Artforum feature on the artist in November that year, but the editor John Coplans (who, excuse me, spent a good portion of his career photographing and exhibiting his own little weenie) and a few of the editors, balked. Benglis and her then dealer, Paula Cooper, placed it as an ad in the same issue. Touche.
Power grab: Lynda Benglis in the November 1974 issue of Artforum
Benglis's now iconic image was the keystone of a recent show at Susan Inglett Gallery, along with one of Robert Morris, bare chested and wrapped with chains, right. The show, Lynda Benglis/Robert Morris: 1973-1974, examined the two images and the art world's strong reaction to them, especially Benglis's. The two artists were friends, and the thesis of the exhibition is that each artist's transgressions help informed the other's.
We, of course, have 35 years of objectivity in reconsidering these images: He was in chains; she could not be more unfettered.
Robert Morris in a 1974 poster for his exhibition at Castelli-Sonnabend Gallery
I remember the ad when it came out. I was horrified and thrilled at the same time. It was a feminist act. And the issue is still relevant. A man with fake breasts would never have caused the same brouhaha. But a woman with a penis? She was assuming power, baby. And her power was the biggest on the block.
"It's about time 'Artforum' had an identity crisis. Lynda Benglis has created some problems. She got a lot more than $2000 worth of advertising, tested the limits of 'good taste' and, in my humble opinion, made the strongest feminist statement you've ever printed."
Pages from the Artform article on Benglis. The ad appeared up front; this article by Robert Pincus-Witten was in the "well" where the features are