What Is Painting? Contemporary Art from the Collection

Lynda Benglis. Victor. 1974 241

Aluminum screen, cotton bunting, plaster, sprayed zinc, steel, and tin, 66 7/8 x 20 1/2 x 13 1/8" (169.8 x 52 x 33.3 cm). Purchased with the aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and an anonymous donor. © 2023 Lynda Benglis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Artist, Lynda Beglis: Victor is a piece from the Alphabet Series. I did what is called the Army/Navy alphabet. Actually it is the coded alphabet: Alpha, Baker, Charlie and Victor is the V. The knots are an alphabet and at the same time they're a way of relating moods or feelings. The Peruvians used the quipu, or knot, and they had a sign language and they departed information through the knotting forms. And I thought that this was a good way for me to depart information through knot forms.

I liked the knots in that I wanted to think about the human form, and I thought of them as people gesturing, sometimes folding their arms, and they seem almost muscular. This particular Victor is a grand person. This person-knot looks directly at you, and it is vertical.

I was also creating an energy through the metal. All metals have different energies. And this particular work combined many metals. The outside surface is tin and the inside surface under the tin is steel. Under the steel is the plaster. Under the plaster is the cloth. And you can see the cloth edges at the bottom of the knot, the two ends. And under the cloth is that screen wire that we use every day on windows.

This was an effort for me to make a painting, to get off the wall with the canvas. It combined both painting and sculpture ideas. Painting is about surface. Surface is, in my mind, always the thing that draws the viewer to the form.

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