Untitled, Lee Bontecou

Lee Bontecou (American, born 1931)

Untitled, 1964 

Welded steel, canvas, velvet hooks, grommets, sockets, velveteen, pipe fittings, fiberglass, corduroy, spark plugs, paint, and wire

Purchase, 1968 (3545.1) 

One of the few women artists to receive major recognition in the 1960s, Lee Bontecou initially worked in a vein of abstracted figuration, sculpting fantastic bird and animal forms that in their deliberate crudeness and aggressive mystery anticipated the direction of her subsequent work. In the late 1950s she began building constructions made with salvaged canvas and other materials stretched over welded metal armatures. 

Starting in 1959, she began incorporating in her reliefs dark openings of varying sizes, projecting from the surface of the work and framing dark, receding insets. She intended these voids to elicit a range of emotive responses—wonder and trepidation, attraction and repulsion—to the unknown, the wondrous, and the sublime, prompted in part by her fascination with scientific and technological advances surrounding the exploration of outer space, as well as veiled aspects of human nature exposed by social and political conflict and war. 

In a statement accompanying the Museum of Modern Art’s 1963 exhibition Americans, in which her work was included, Bontecou said that her goal was to “build things that express our relation to this country—to other countries—to this world—to other worlds—in terms of myself. To glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty, and mystery that exists in all of us and which hangs over all the young people today.”