Lee Bontecou (1931–2022) – Artforum Worldwide
Lee Bontecou, who gained widespread discover for her industrial assemblages, plush cavity–pocked canvases, and vacuum-formed plastic sculptures of natural shapes, died November 8 at her house in Florida on the age of ninety-one. Bontecou rose to prominence within the Nineteen Sixties as one of many few girls artists feted on the burgeoning New York scene earlier than surprising the artwork world by decamping to Pennsylvania for thirty years. She quietly continued to make work there, commuting to show artwork at Brooklyn Faculty for twenty years earlier than lastly agreeing to a 2003 retrospective at Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum that restored her oeuvre to its outstanding place within the art-historical canon, although for the internally pushed Bontecou, it had by no means ceased to occupy this realm. “I’ve by no means left the artwork world,” she informed Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin that yr. “I’m in the true artwork world.”
Lee Bontecou was born January 5, 1931, in Windfall, Rhode Island. Fascinated with sculpture from a younger age, she was deeply influenced by World Conflict II, which might later inform her industrial constructions, and by summers spent together with her household in Nova Scotia, to which her later natural types could possibly be traced. After attending Bradford Junior Faculty in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Bontecou in 1952 moved to New York, the place she studied on the Artwork College students League till 1955, spending the summer time of 1954 studying to weld on the Skowhegan Faculty of Portray and Sculpture in Maine. In 1958, after spending a yr in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship, she returned to New York, the place she started making the monstrous, wall-hung works fusing metallic and canvas for which she shortly turned famend. In 1960, she turned the lone lady on gallerist Leo Castelli’s roster, displaying her work alongside that of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella.
Her work of this decade steadily took as its theme the brutality of battle and the attendant emotions surrounding it, embodied, for instance, in her 1964 fee for the foyer of New York’s Lincoln Middle for the Performing Arts, a colossal wall reduction incorporating a part of a WWII bomber. Writing on Bontecou’s work on the San Francisco Museum of Artwork’s group present “Individuals 1963,” staged the titular yr, Artforum’s James Monte famous that Bontecou “makes no emotional cowl for her obsessional metal, wire and canvas wall constructions, hanging dumb, like secret, unfulfilled needs, having burned earlier than fruition.”
Shortly earlier than her 1971 transfer to Pennsylvania and her assumption of a instructing function at Brooklyn Faculty, Bontecou turned from battle to nature, creating plastic sculptures that conjured fish, vegetation, and flowers; these would later turn out to be the topics of drawings, which within the final decade of her life introduced her a raft of accolades. “One senses the artist can also be narrating her personal kinetic and inside course of whereas she’s within the act of psychically glimpsing her types,” wrote Suzanne Hudson in a 2021 Artforum overview of Bontecou’s works on paper at Houston’s Menil Assortment. “Her strategy is an embrace of motion, or of vitality manifestly coinciding with the articulation of line as graphite crosses the sheet and takes form after which takes one other, or holds out the chance that it might.”
Among the many honors Bontecou obtained are the Louis Consolation Tiffany Award (1959) and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ gold medal for sculpture (2019). She was elected into the Nationwide Academy of Design in 2004. Although she graciously accepted these accolades, Bontecou typically rejected crucial interpretations of her work, opposing prevalent gendered readings and sustaining that she was little influenced by different up to date artists. She additionally most popular that the main focus be on her work, slightly than on her. “Being an artist isn’t a profession,” she mentioned. “It’s simply one thing that grabs you.”