The present work, Untitled from 1960, perfectly epitomizes Bontecou’s established, recognizable style for which she became known. The canvas is roughly stitched to the steel frame with the sutures evident, drawing the viewer’s attention to the process of its creation. Framed by the patchwork of canvas are two deep, black, oval holes with concentric circles surrounding them, almost like reverberations of their impact. Jutting out from the wall, the present work invades the spectator’s space, yet simultaneously draws one into the dark, cryptic voids. As Donald Judd remarked in 1965, “Bontecou’s reliefs are an assertion of herself, of what she feels and knows. Their primitive, oppressive and unmitigated individuality excludes grand interpretations.”
Bontecou, the only woman in Leo Castelli's stable of artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenberg, burst onto the New York art scene with her first solo show at Castelli in 1960. Many critics likened the holes in Bontecou’s work to bodily orifices, attaching negative and aggressive connotations, menacing, harmful. Bontecou has never acknowledged that these euphemisms exist in her work. She uses the void to convey the contradictions and paradoxes of the human condition: the heavenly and the corrupt; the abstract and the concrete; pritivism and skill. As critic Dore Ashton wrote in response to Bontecou’s show at Castelli in 1960, “The reigning image is the black tunneled hole central to anything Bontecou undertakes. This cavity bores deep and is, to my mind, far more significant than the obvious sexual connotations so often invoked for her work.”
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