Lee Bontecou. Untitled. 1961

Lee Bontecou Untitled 1961

  • Not on view

Taking canvas from conveyor belts discarded by a laundry below her East Village apartment, Bontecou stretched pieces of the fabric across a steel armature and fastened them to the metal with wire. Expanding out from the wall in an unusual construction that contains a prominent void at the center, Untitled straddles the boundaries between painting and sculpture, mechanical and organic, inviting and threatening. Bontecou created this sculpture in a year marked by intense anxiety: the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba failed, the United States committed its first troops to Vietnam, and the construction of the Berlin Wall began. In a rare statement, she wrote, "My concern is to build things that express our relation to this country--to other countries--to this world--to other worlds to glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty and mystery that exists in us all and which hangs over all the young people today."

Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 - August 13, 2017.

When Bontecou first exhibited her steel-and-canvas sculptures, many praised their aggressive, ominous qualities. Fellow artist Joseph Cornell described their gaping black cavities as summoning "the terror of the yawning mouths of cannons, of violent craters, of windows opened to receive your flight without return, and the jaws of the great beasts." The year Bontecou made this work was marked by intense anxiety: the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba failed, the U.S. committed its first troops to Vietnam, and the construction of the Berlin Wall began. Although Bontecou rarely comments on her art, in a statement that accompanied a 1963 MoMA exhibition featuring this work, she wrote, "My concern is to build things that express our relation to this country—to other countries—to this world—to other worlds—to glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty and mystery that exists in us all and which hangs over all the young people today."

Gallery label from Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense, April 21–August 30, 2010 .
Medium
Welded steel, canvas, fabric, rawhide, copper wire, and soot
Dimensions
6' 8 1/4" x 7' 5" x 34 3/4" (203.6 x 226 x 88 cm)
Credit
Kay Sage Tanguy Fund
Object number
398.1963
Copyright
© 2019 Lee Bontecou
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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