canvas, welded steel and wire
Executed in 1964.
Lee Bontecou challenged principles and traditions of artistic materials and execution. Works from the 1960s, the first decade of her career, garnered extensive recognition for their striking originality and even today remain her most well known pieces. Untitled from 1964 demonstrates Bontecou's masterful ability to create tensions between the industrial and the natural and her impressive capacity for aligning these two polarities. Born in 1931, Bontecou was a classically trained sculptor and in 1956 received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Rome. She stayed in Rome for two years and in 1958 returned to New York City where she was almost immediately added to Leo Castelli's arsenal of artists and launched into the thick of the art scene, selling out shows and receiving favorable reviews in publications such as Life magazine and Art in America. In 1963 her evocative sculptures were included in the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Americans.
Bontecou was energized by the Abstract Expressionist painters and particularly drawn to the looseness and freedom of their work. She transferred this freedom into sculpture. In both monumental and intimate scale, Bontecou's wall reliefs have a distinct independence. In the present work, canvas pieces are built out from a welded steel frame and roughly stitched together with twisted wire. The canvas is stretched like skin and punctuated by two of the artist's signature voids. These voids are covered with metal grating, enclosing military helmets. Here, Bontecou manipulates the surface plane to create a mysterious depth that simultaneously evokes wonder and fear. Bontecou's sculptures demonstrate the artist's fascination with the underbelly of human nature and the brutality of war – they maintain an innate sense of the correlation between nature, culture and self. Exceptional vibrancy and vitality emanates from the unsettling visual abundance of her reliefs.
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