Odalisque (Hey, Hey Frankenthaler)


Lynda Benglis ( American, 1941 )

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General Description

Lynda Benglis created Odalisque after visiting a 1969 retrospective of Helen Frankenthaler's paintings. In her title, Benglis refers to the poured paintings of Frankenthaler, who is noted as a bridge between Jackson Pollock’s poured-pigment style, and the so-called color field school that relied on pigment stained into canvases for its effects, while recognizing her predecessor's subordinated, gendered position in the canon of postwar American painters.

The term “odalisque” connotes the sensual reclining figures found in works by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and other painters of the early to mid-19th century. Benglis seems to be signaling a new identity for the female artist, one who takes on the physically arduous techniques of the male artist, yet foregoes these artists’ ascetic and often forbidding aesthetic. Instead, she creates a river of orange, blue, green, red, and yellow that congeals and meanders across the surface of the floor, bringing the work of sculpture off its pedestal and into the real space of the gallery visitor’s experience.

Odalisque marks Benglis's shift from working in wax to working with latex, which allowed her to increase the scale of her works. Notably, Benglis considers her latex pours as "fallen paintings," referencing both the work's physical placement on the floor and the Victorian myth of the "fallen woman," used to describe a woman who has been corrupted by sex or another vice, and as such has compromised her respectability. The bodily dimensions and anthropomorphic orientation of Odalisque reflects Benglis's interest in sensorial perception, or how each individual experiences the world through their own body and relatedly, how individual experience is shaped by differences in identity such as gender and race.

Adapted from

  • Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 48.

  • Jeffrey Grove, Label copy, Difference?, 2012.

Web Resources

  • PBS Art21
    Explore videos of Lynda Benglis and her work.

  • ArtNews
    Read about Benglis's career in, "The Shape-Shifter: How Lynda Benglis Left the Bayou and Messed With the Establishment."

  • YouTube
    Watch a Whitney Focus video of Benglis discussing her work.