North South East West

1988/2009/2014–15. Bronze and steel, each 66" x 7' 6" x 56" (167.6 x 228.6 x 142.1 cm). Courtesy the artist; Cheim & Read, New York; and Locks Gallery, Philadelphia

The smooth, dripping surfaces of this sculpture's bronze elements-which resemble ocean waves lapping at the shore, slow-moving lava, or prehistoric creatures-were created with polyurethane foam, which Benglis poured over a large Ming ceramic pot and a support over the pot that she had fashioned out of wire. She has noted that this work resembles an implosion, or a volcanic eruption. Since 1968 Benglis has made latex rubber paintings, thinking of oil slicks in her hometown bayous and lakes, and later moved into polyurethane foam sculptures, both on the floor and cantilevered off the wall. North South East West was created in this manner. She appreciates that this technique invites some element of the unknown into her process. However, as she has stated, “while there's some accident, I have control.” The four elements of North South East West were identical until this year, when Benglis reworked and added bronze elements to the surfaces of three of them, creating a “collaged” bronze. The original form is kept in the East element. In creating larger works, Benglis has spent ample time at metal foundries, and she has integrated the working methods of the foundry into her artistic process. As Benglis has said, “The foundries are my studios, and their employees, my collaborators.”

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