Lynda Benglis seems to be picking up where she left off a few decades ago, or so her show at Locks Gallery suggests. After years of exploring metals and silver and gold surfaces, the sculptor - whose traveling retrospective "Lynda Benglis" currently is on view at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum and moves to New York's New Museum in February - has returned to color. It may not be a re-embrace to the eventual exclusion of the metallic, but it certainly appears that Benglis has decided to reexamine color's possibilities.
Her tinted polyurethane sculpture Swinburne Egg I, made last year, is a take-no-prisoners Schiaparelli hot pink; Chiron and D'arrest, also from 2009, are a glowing orange-red that seems lit from within. The forms of these three are simpler and more self-contained than Benglis' sculptures have ever been, suggesting a consolidation of many of her past efforts. Swinburne Egg I and Chiron look like immense decorated eggs or the tops of curly-haired human heads or brains mounted on a wall (or perhaps wigs fashioned from translucent jelly candy worms, all the same hue). Benglis always has been good at simultaneously summoning the gross and the beautiful; now, five decades into her career, she can still pull that off beautifully, though she can err on the cruder side.
Among the other recent series represented here are Benglis's wall-mounted "Figure" sculptures, cast in bronze and patinated a matte black, all from 2009 and all reminiscent of the human figure; her polyurethane casts of vase and plate forms arranged totemically, in this case, the three-part Black Ice from 2009. They are unmistakably her work, and they, more than the colored sculptures, emphasize this show's title, "Flow and Flesh."
Being a fan of Benglis' influential work from the early 1970s, especially her poured latex pieces in which various colors formed rivulets - imagine a Gene Davis stripe painting as various flavors of ice cream in the process of melting - I hope for more color, even glitter, in the future.
Anne Agee, who has Locks' ground floor, makes gorgeously painted and glazed ceramic platters inspired by her home and studio and the relationship between the two architectural spaces; she assembles them intentionally awkwardly on steel armatures. She also paints Matissean - or perhaps more rectilinear, Sarah McEneaneyan - images of architectural intersections she has found in the interior of her house. And then there are her vases, pure and unadorned, and her lewd, if remarkably carefully modeled, porcelain sculptures, which cannot be described accurately here. (Imagine a sexual interaction among a girl, a boy, and a horse and you probably haven't got it right).
This is disparate work, though it all looks good together. Agee's exhibition is immediately impressive as an installation and should be taken as such.
Seeing an entire one-person exhibition of Martine Fougeron's photographs of her two sons and their friends for the first time, I quickly thought back to Bruce Weber's classic 1980s images of pouting adolescent boys shot for Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren ads. Tina Barney's early, seemingly unstaged portraits of her family came to mind, too, but Fougeron's intent, as Weber's was, seems to be to communicate a sexually charged atmosphere.
This is weirder stuff, though, than Weber's, a latter-day Sally Mann narrative replaced with a citified Upper East Side one. In these pictures, a seemingly privileged mom follows her seemingly similarly privileged boys in and beyond their shared abode to after-prom parties and the like, catching everyone behaving riskily.
You wonder what these kids thought of the helicopter mom with a camera, and why the mother seems focused on the sexuality of the kids.
Those thoughts are hard to dismiss.
Rita Bernstein, who has the smaller room at Gallery 339, also photographs her children, among other people, but her human subjects are blurred and frequently shown with their backs to the camera, caught in everyday moments. Bernstein seems at least as preoccupied with her printing techniques - she applies silver emulsion to Japanese Gampi paper - as with her final images.