At once organic and galactic, tectonic and diaphanous, this untitled work exemplifies Bontecou’s three–dimensional explorations of balance, form, and movement. This tenuous sculpture is suspended from the ceiling in a swirl of welded steel, porcelain, piano wire, canvas, and wire mesh, a visual symphony in structure and poise. With each addition of wires and beads, Bontecou achieved a remarkable effect: the scattering of structural elements within a cosmological system of gravity–defying levitation that slowly and delicately swivels in space.
After attaining success in the early 1960s with her prints, drawings, and welded–steel–and–canvas reliefs, in the 1970s Bontecou moved from New York to rural Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She continued to teach at Brooklyn College until 1991, yet for nearly thirty years she remained removed from the demands and concerns of the art world. Of the spectacular constructions, like this one, that she made during this period of immense productivity and solitude, Bontecou has said, "I think they're more hopeful than some of the things I've done. I’ve been thinking more of space and just letting things flow and encompassing as much as I can about the world."
Director, Glenn Lowry: Lee Bontecou began making this suspended sculpture in rural Pennsylvania in 1980. Small porcelain beads and sections of wire mesh are connected by an intricate network of piano wire that radiates from a dark blue sphere, creating a slowly whirling galaxy of forms. Bontecou often worked on these sculptures at night, and has described the way darkness made the wire disappear, so that the white dots appeared to float in space. In this work, Bontecou has drawn upon her longstanding interest in outer space and the natural world to explore movement, balance, and spatial complexity.
Artist, Lee Bontecou: I've found after I look at them that no matter how much you think youre doing something different, you find you're repeating yourself. Theres always a common denominator in what youre doing. I feel after looking at them, oh my goodness, I've made full circle again. It's almost like a spiral. Hopefully, we go around and come back again and go up higher if possible.
For many years Bontecou's sculptures and drawings featured billowing sail-like forms that implied movement. Here she literally set sculpture into motion. In this slowly whirling galaxy of forms, small porcelain orbs and sections of wire mesh are connected to an intricate network of piano wire that radiates from a central blue sphere. Typical of Bontecou's work, the sphere conjures an array of associations—a planet, a satellite, an eye, and a blowfish or other primordial-looking sea creature.
Bontecou has characterized the process of making this body of work as akin to drawing in space: "I always wanted to move away from the wall, so I began hanging the works. I started small, combining porcelain, different clays, and screen. The process was getting closer to drawing, which is so free. And it can go on endlessly."