Lynda Benglis would never claim, as Jackson Pollock did, that she was nature. But a wide-ranging exhibition of her irrepressible works at Blum & Poe in Culver City does what nature does: moves us in ways we don’t fully understand and connects us to processes that are bigger than all of us — and that have been going longer than humans have been on the planet.
It starts with a big bang: “Hills and Clouds” towers inside the entrance of the first gallery. The sculpture is bigger than my living room and loaded with so many fascinating landscape features that you’re left plenty of room to get lost. Your imagination wanders, taking off on flights of fancy that make every moment feel as if it’s fuller and more resplendent than usual.
Made of stainless steel and phosphorescence-laced polyurethane, Benglis’ monster of a masterpiece glows in the dark, its greenish luminosity adding to the magic and making it seem both extraterrestrial and welcoming.
Two nearby sculptures have been made of aluminum cast from molds that Benglis appears to have fabricated by extruding miles of foam insulation into writhing piles of tangled magnificence — like a drip painting, only three-dimensional.
One has the presence of a waterfall in winter, its cascading torrent frozen solid. The other resembles a decorative ribbon, its texture, form and surface making it seem to be racing through space. Scale shifts precipitously, filling the material world with fantastic possibilities.
In a second gallery, a trio of similar wall-works is joined by a trio of egg-shaped polyurethane sculptures, each titled after a Greek goddess or sea nymph, and each marrying nature and artifice in ways reasonable and resonant, sensible and sexy.
In a third gallery hang 11 pieces cobbled together from scraps of chicken wire, handmade paper, ground coal and glitter. Loosely composed, each seems to be an accident. But Benglis extracts unfathomable beauty from her mismatched melange of materials, turning unremarkable stuff into pure loveliness.
Outdoors, three cast bronze sculptures do double duty as fountains. Extending the restless, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink inclusiveness of Benglis’ artistry, they resemble upside-down mushroom clouds or pint-size mutants in party dresses.
Upstairs, a dozen ceramic sculptures compress the energy that pours and spills from Benglis’ other works into compact dimensions. Their ferocity is palpable, not quite malignant but nothing to be messed with.
That is the same with nature: beautiful and deadly, it neither suffers fools nor trifles with inessentials, human or otherwise.
Blum & Poe, 2727 La Cienega Blvd., L.A. Through Dec. 16; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 836-2062, www.blumandpoe.com
FOR THE RECORD
8:25 a.m., Dec. 2: A photo caption with an earlier version of this article misstated the dimensions of “Hills and Clouds” as being 11 inches by 19 inches by 19 feet. The piece is 11 feet by 19 feet by 19 feet. The article also miscredited other photos to Joshua White.