172
172
Lee Bontecou
UNTITLED
Estimate
300,000400,000
JUMP TO LOT
172
Lee Bontecou
UNTITLED
Estimate
300,000400,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
New York

Lee Bontecou
B.1931
UNTITLED
signed and dated 60
welded steel, canvas and wire
27 1/2 by 29 by 6 1/4 in. 69.9 by 73.7 by 15.9 cm.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Makler Gallery, Philadelphia
Private Collection, Pennsylvania
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Collects 20th Century, October - November 1963, p. 9, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Defying classification, Lee Bontecou's fierce individualism informed her enigmatic and highly acclaimed body of work. From 1959-1967, Bontecou began constructing her multi-layered, complex wall-relief sculptures of found material and welded steel wire. These three-dimensional constructs use a pioneering technique of stretching fragments of recycled fabrics and canvas and fastening them to a metal frame of undulating, organic forms of great depth and total originality. This technique created depth and space, forming irregularly shaped holes at the center of each work, a seemingly mysterious abyss. The technical handling of her chosen materials stemmed from Bontecou's early exposure to the process of industrial manufacturing.  Both her parents were skilled technicians - her mother working in a World War II submarine factory wiring transmitters and her father having invented the first all-aluminum canoe with her uncle. 

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.”

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
New York