Born, 1931, Providence, Rhode Island
Lives and works in Orbisonia, Pennsylvania
By 1959, the young sculptor Lee Bontecou had developed a unique language,
inspired in equal measure by organic forms and mechanical structures. Hovering
between abstraction and figuration, her canvas and wire reliefs and freestanding
sculptures of the 1960s powerfully expressed the awe and terror of the inexplicable,
whether natural or manmade. A scientist of the unseeable, Bontecou offers up carefully
observed specifics as evidence of much larger ends. "My most persistently recurring
thought is to work in a scope as far-reaching as possible," she wrote early in her
career, "to express a feeling of freedom in all its necessary ramifications—its awe,
beauty, magnitude, horror and baseness." Although she continued to make sculptures and
drawings throughout the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Bontecou chose not to show her work
publicly, preferring to work in relative isolation in her western Pennsylvania studio.
Over the past several years, she has begun to exhibit again. Her most recent works are
delicate wire and ceramic sculptures that resemble macrocosmic systems, such as
constellations, or microcosmic ones, such as insects. Though distinct from her earlier
objects, they continue to merge the empirical with the transcendental, the scientific
with the spiritual. This presentation was co-organized with Elizabeth A. T. Smith
and includes a selection of works from the artist's entire career.
Hadler, Mona. "Lee Bontecou's 'Warnings.'" Art Journal 53 (Winter 1994): 56–61.
Judd, Donald. "Lee Bontecou." Arts Magazine 39 (April 1965): 16–21.
Smith, Elizabeth A. T., ed. Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective. Exhibition catalogue. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art; Los Angeles: UCLA Hammer Museum, in association with Harry N. Abrams, 2003. Essays by Donna De Salvo, Mona Hadler, Smith, and Robert Storr.
Solomon, Alan. New York: The New Art Scene. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1967.
Sussman, Elizabeth. "Lee Bontecou: UCLA Hammer Museum." Artforum 42, no. 5 (January 2004): 48–49.