Lee Bontecou. Untitled. 1980-98

Lee Bontecou Untitled 1980-98

  • Not on view

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."

Gallery label from Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense, April 21–August 30, 2010.

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."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 31.
Welded steel, porcelain, wire mesh, canvas, grommets, and wire
7 x 8 x 6' (213.4 x 243.8 x 182.9 cm)
Gift of Philip Johnson (by exchange) and the Nina and Gordon Bunshaft Bequest Fund
Object number
© 2019 Lee Bontecou
Painting and Sculpture

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