The New Orleans Museum of Art has acquired Wing, a 1970 sculpture by artist Lynda Benglis, with funds provided by The Helis Foundation and additional funds provided by the Frierson Art Purchase Fund. In the 1960s, the Louisiana native shocked the New York art world with her electric-hued sculptures and art installations, whose vibrant colors and free-form compositions ran counter to the more austere minimalist aesthetic of much art of the time. Benglis created these works, which she called “fallen paintings,” by dripping and pouring industrial materials like latex and polyurethane directly on gallery floors or upon armatures installed on museum walls. Wing, a large scale aluminum sculpture cast from one of these poured pieces, extends dramatically out from the wall to enter into the space of the viewer. Wing is the earliest, largest and most significant work by Benglis in NOMA’s collection.
“This acquisition underscores NOMA’s efforts to strengthen our collection and showcase influential international artists,” said Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director at NOMA. “The longtime generosity of The Helis Foundation serves as an important anchor for so many NOMA initiatives and its support exemplifies a true investment in the museum’s present and future.”
Calling forth natural phenomena like erupting volcanoes and crashing waves, Wing foreshadowed a number of cantilevered outdoor fountains Benglis began creating in the 1980s. The first of these, The Wave of the World, was commissioned for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. Following the close of the Fair in 1984, the fountain sculpture sat hidden for decades in a former sewage treatment plant in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. Benglis personally undertook and supervised the complete restoration of the work when it was rediscovered in the summer of 2014. Through the generosity of The Helis Foundation, these works are now on simultaneous view for the first time—Wing in NOMA’s galleries, and The Wave of the World adjacent to the Big Lake in City Park.
“The Helis Foundation is honored to be a part of bringing Lynda Benglis’ work to public view in her home state of Louisiana,” said David Kerstein, President of The Helis Foundation, the recipient of the New Orleans Museum of Art’s prestigious 2016 Isaac Delgado Memorial Award. “We are proud to ensure that these significant and influential works of art by one of Louisiana’s most important artists are available for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
In 1977, Benglis participated in the New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition Five from Louisiana as one of five Louisiana artists who had gained international prominence. These artists included Robert Rauschenberg, Tina Girouard, Richard Landry, and Keith Sonnier. NOMA owns six works by Benglis in a variety of media. The works currently in the collection include a photo collage (Untitled, n.d., 2008.74.5, a gift of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel), and five sculptural works including Untitled, from the Pinto Series, 1971 (81.98), a beeswax and wood sculpture; Vulpecula, 1984 (86.149) and Triple Knot, 1990 (97.851), both “pleated” sculptures of wire mesh that have been twisted and spray-coated with metal); Big Eye, 1985 (87.187) and Untitled, 1995 (96.355), two small-scale glass “knots.” The museum lacked a significant example of her work from the 1960s and 1970s until now. Wing is the earliest, largest and most significant work by Benglis in NOMA’s collection, allowing the museum to fully represent Benglis’ career and providing context and counterpoint to the works listed above.
Below is an informational rack card produced by the New Orleans Museum of Art celebrating the acquisition of Wing and it’s connection to The Wave of the World outside the museum in City Park: