devil in the centerfold

Amusing, Newly Unearthed Responses to Lynda Benglis and Her Infamous Dildo

Benglis, without her little friend.

In 1974, artist Lynda Benglis found a way around Artforum’s strict policy against purchasing editorial space and bought a centerfold to accompany a story about her work. The left page had the artist’s name and that of her gallery, Paula Cooper, against a black background; the right showed Benglis naked, hair slicked back, body oiled and orange, and inserting a giant two-headed dildo into her vagina. Feminists spoke out both for and against the artist, Artforum subscriptions were canceled, and five of the magazine’s associate editors quit in outrage. Chelsea’s Susan Inglett gallery is currently showing an exhibition, curated by Specific Object/David Platzker, of some choice relics from the controversy (and one involving an equally notorious S&M-themed poster featuring artist Robert Morris), including one of the cast-metal dildos Benglis made to represent each editor who quit because of her. But most amusing by far are the absurd letters to the editor that never made it into the magazine. Here follow excerpts from five of our favorites.

The oeuvre of Lynda Benglis is fascinating, her mammary glands are exquisite, and her gluteai maxima delightful, but her cock is too big. — Professor Martin Ries, Long Island University

I object to the ad for its flabby opportunism, its ready acceptance of the vernacular of apathy, and also on account of its gratuitous insult to those who think that art is more than the person who made it. — Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

To the outside Lynda Benglis’s self portrait (Nov. 74 issue) is hardly offensive. She looks good, and I suspect many readers are likely to hang her sexy, yes vulgar photo, on their bathroom walls. — Elaine Tolner, New York

Dear Mr. Artforum,
Many thanks for finally printing something outside of your normal drivel … if this is a new policy of the publication please consider this letter a request for subscription, if not forget it. — Larry Bell; artist; Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico

He, ha, ha, ha, ha. Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho. Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee. Heh, heh. Ahem. — Norman Solomon; Berkeley, California

Amusing, Newly Unearthed Responses to Lynda Benglis and Her Infamous Dildo