Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:43

Chicago, Pasadena Lifesaver, Blue Series, No. 4 & Benglis, Omega

United States

Video transcript

Woman: We're in the Portland Art Museum and we're looking at Judy Chicago's Pasadena Lifesaver blue series #4 1969 to 1970. Being from Brooklyn, I know Judy Chicago's dinner party. Man: Absolutely. Woman: I'm lucky enough to live right near its permanent inflation. Man: The celebration of women artists across history. This work is Judy Chicago just after she changes her name from Judy Gerowitz. She takes on another persona in her evolution as an artist and a person from minimalist art school to trying to make the vocabulary of the day in which she was active, raw minimalism, the factory, the men. Trying to make it female. Trying to make it mean something to us. So when you look at this work, it's four lifesaver-like shapes. Woman: So how do you see that as connected to this finding of a feminist identity? Man: Oh look at it. Woman: It's pink and purple and blue. Man: But look at the pattern. It's a translucent square 6 foot by 6 foot. She has divided it into quadrants. The quadrants are divided into equilateral triangles like a quilt body in the background. Woman: Ahh, I see it. Man: And on top she has created four lifesaver-like shapes in which color moves like a spectrum from light pastel blue and purple to dark rich purple. Woman: They have a kind of frosted. Man: Yes, well that's that transparent color on a plexiglass body. This is not the opaqueness of paint, but the transparency of light and color, like a flaven in a room that changes the color. She uses that to suggest the sensuality of a form that is both geometric and female. Woman: And soft and round at the same time. Man: Round and soft. She takes two ideas. The traditional folk form of the quilt, I think. Woman: Maybe almost playing on the idea of a grid, the modernist grid. Man: Yes, absolutely. Woman: Let's look at this other woman artist right next to it. Man: Lynda Benglis. Woman: You have this purity and geometry of the Judy Chicago and then this knotted tense but gorgeous and explosive and fun form called Omega from 1973. Man: This is Lynda Benglis from New Orleans, from the Mardi Gras tradition. A woman who takes something from the world. Those plaster-soaked bandages that they stabilize broken legs with. She begins to knot then. She thinks of them as organic and process and physical. It's a post-minimalist practice. It takes material for what it is. And then like her famous art forum advertisement where she appears naked with a dildo on a two page ad confronting the machoism of minimalism. Woman: Is that her holding the dildo? Man: Yes and the sunglasses. Woman: I had forgotten about that image. Man: One of the great confrontations she stages. Woman: It's still a very confrontational image. Man: It was done against her friend, Robert Morris, the minimalist, and these glitter knots dismissed in their day because they weren't serious enough. They were frivolous. They were playful. They were ... Woman: Female. And I wonder what would have happened if a man had made them. If they would have been seen as frivolous and playful and I don't know. There is something about this that also reminds me of late Stella. Man: Yes, of course, it ends up be antecedent and grounded in what Lynda Benglis was doing. Frank Stella at this point is doing hard edged geometrics much closer to Judy Chicago. Woman: That's right. Man: It's a wonderful piece, animated by this black drizzling line and then the blue and the magenta and the pink and the purple glitter. Woman: And it feels sort of like it's making fun of Pollock too. Man: Oh absolutely. Woman: Adding some Kindergarten glitter to some Pollock. Man: You see, it is. I've known Lynda Benglis for 30 years. I've had the privilege of working with her on exhibits and she talks about the glitter knot as a response to the hypersensitivity in masculinity of the art world's dealing with Pollock as the great breakthrough and she said, "I wanted to make him and his imagery in mind, "but to make it from the process." Woman: Very cool.