Lee Bontecou

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Lee Bontecou
Lee Bontecou's untitled work from 1959.jpg
Untitled, welded steel, canvas, black fabric and wire, 1959
Born (1931-01-15) January 15, 1931 (age 83)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Art Students League of New York
Known for Sculpture, Printmaking
Awards Fulbright scholarship, Rome 1957-1958; Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, 1959

Lee Bontecou (born January 15, 1931 in Providence, Rhode Island) is an American sculptor. She attended the Art Students League of New York from 1952 to 1955, where she studied with the sculptor William Zorach. She received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Rome in 1957-1958 and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award in 1959. From the 1970s until 1991 she taught at Brooklyn College.

She is best known for the sculptures she created in 1959 and the 1960s, which challenged artistic conventions of both materials and presentation by hanging on the wall like a painting. They consist of welded steel frames covered with recycled canvas (such as conveyor belts or mail sacks) and other found objects. Her best constructions are at once mechanistic and organic, abstract but evocative of the brutality of war. Art critic Arthur Danto describes them as "fierce", reminiscent of 17th-century scientist Robert Hooke's Micrographia, lying "at the intersection of magnified insects, battle masks, and armored chariots...”.[1] She exhibited at Leo Castelli's art gallery in the 1960s, and one of the largest examples of her work is located in the lobby of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

She retired from the art world to Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.[1][2] After decades of obscurity, she was brought back to public attention by a 2003 retrospective co-organized by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, that traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2004. The retrospective included both work from her public, art-world career and an extensive display of work done after retreating from the public view.[1] Bontecou's work was also included in the Carnegie International 2004-5 exhibit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2004, Bontecou was elected into the National Academy of Design.[3]

The Cleveland Museum of Art, the David H. Koch Theater (New York City), the David Winton Bell Gallery (Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island), the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City) are among the public collections holding major works by Lee Bontecou. In 2010, the Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of Bontecou's work entitled All Freedom in Every Sense.[2]

A picture of Bontecou working in her studio, taken by Italian photographer Ugo Mulas in 1963, was used as the cover art for Spoon’s 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The apparently completed sculpture on the right is now in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art (see Gallery below).

Lee Bontecou is represented by her sole agent, Bill Maynes.


  1. ^ a b c Danto 2004
  2. ^ a b Rooney, Kara L. (July–August 2010). "Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  3. ^ National Academicians | National Academy Museum


  • Applin, Jo (June 2006) "This threatening and possibly functioning object: Lee Bontecou and the Sculptural Void", Art History 29:3, pp. 476–503
  • Danto, Arthur (2004) "A Tribe Called Quest", The Nation, September 27, 2004, p. 40-43
  • Dreishpoon, Douglas (1996) "From a curator's point of view: making selections and forging connections: Lee Bontecou, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson / Douglas Dreishpoon", Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina at Greensboro,
  • Molesworth, Helen Anne (2005) "Part Object Part Sculpture", Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University
  • Smith, Elizabeth A.T.; Ann Philbin (2003). Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective. Dona De Salvo, Mona Hadler, Donald Judd, Robert Storr. Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago with Harry N. Abrams Inc. ISBN 0-8109-4618-1. 
  • Hadler, Mona (2007) “Lee Bontecou: Plastic Fish and Grinning Saw Blades,” Woman’s Art Journal,Vol XXVIII, No. 1 (Spring/Summer, 2007), pp. 12–18
  • Hadler, Mona (1994), "Lee Bontecou's 'Warnings'," Art Journal, Vol. LIII, No. 4 (Winter, 1994), pp. 56–61.

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