NEW YORK, NY.- Featuring three sculptures and more than a dozen works on paper by American artist Lee Bontecou (b. 1931), this intimate installation spans four decades of the artists career, from 1958 to 1998. Known for her richly evocative forms that conjure biological, geological, and technological motifs, Bontecou has described the natural world and its wonders and horrors as a central preoccupation of her career. Among the earliest works presented are large drawings made of velvety soot and wall-mounted sculptures composed of salvaged canvas stitched to elaborate welded steel armatures. The centerpiece of the installationon view in this building for the first timeis a recently acquired suspended sculpture that was one of the highlights of the artists 2004 retrospective at MoMA QNS. This large untitled mobile is composed of sections of translucent wire mesh and small porcelain orbs attached to an intricate network of wire that radiate from a central blue porcelain sphere. Made over an 18-year period from 1980 to 1998, it presents a galaxy of forms and represents a fulfillment of Bontecous longstanding desire to create art that encompasses as much of life as much of life as possibleno barriersno boundaries -all freedom in every sense.
Lee Bontecou (born Providence, Rhode Island, 1931) first exhibited her steel and canvas sculptures at New Yorks prominent Leo Castelli Gallery in the 1960s. Although they bear little resemblance to the Minimalist and Pop art dominant at the time, these wall-mounted sculpturesmade in New York between 1959 and 1967elicited both critical acclaim and curiosity. Writing about one of them, a reviewer asked, Is it a pterodactyl? A spaceship? An outsize artichoke or a monstrous whorl of giant flower corollas? Bontecous imaginative vision encompasses all of these possibilities. For decades she has left her work untitled, preferring not to restrict the ways in which it may be understood.
Bontecous excitement about the Space Race and her memories of the Second World War are fundamental to her visual language. While her art defies easy classification, suggestions of infinite expanse, anxiety, and threat are pervasive, expressed, for example, in the black circular forms that have been insistent motifs in her work. The cavernous black voids of her steel-and-canvas sculptures and the deep black circles of her drawings conjure associations as varied as volcanic craters, jet engines, eye sockets, and cosmic black holes, invoking what the artist has described as the visual wonders and horrors of the natural and man-made worlds.
In 1971 Bontecou left New York City. Since then she has worked primarily in rural Pennsylvania, where her engagement with the natural world has become more pronounced. The sculpture suspended at the center of this installationa slowly whirling galaxy of forms she worked on for eighteen yearsrepresents a fulfillment of her longstanding desire to create art that celebrates as much of life as possible no barriersno boundariesall freedom in every sense.