Untitled (No. 25) (Primary Title)

Lee Bontecou, American, born 1931 (Artist)

welded steel, canvas, copper wire
United States
Overall: 72 × 56 × 20 in. (182.88 × 142.24 × 50.8 cm)

“My concern is to build things that express our relationship to this country—to other countries—to this world—to other worlds . . . to glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty, and mystery that exist in us all.” —Lee Bontecou

Between 1959 and 1967, Bontecou made works using canvas wired to a welded-steel framework. These wall-mounted constructions questioned the boundary between painting and sculpture, an issue the artist explored further by using raw canvas as a sculptural material. Bontecou meant her works to defy easy interpretation. Their gaping voids, backed with black, simultaneously invite and repel.

The canvases call to mind army fatigues, laundry bags, or tarps; the wire that attached them suggests sutures closing a wound. Bontecou’s use of common materials allies her with the Assemblage approach of artists like Robert Rauschenberg, and her pared-down materials and interest in geometry hint at Minimalism. But her works’ strong emotions and political and cosmic allusions set her apart from both these movements.

Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis
Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949 - 1962, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, October 6, 2012 – January 14, 2013; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, February 16 – June 2, 2013

Selections from the Sydney and Frances Lewis Collection, Richmond Public Library, Richmond, VA, February 1976

Lee Bontecou, Stadtische Museum, Leverkusen, Germany; Museum Boymans-van-Beunigen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Gesellschaft fur Bildende Kunst, Berlin, Germany, March - July 1968

Current Trends in Painting, Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, March - April 1967

Documenta III, Kassel, West Germany, 1964

The Art of Assemblage, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, October 4 - November 12, 1961; Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, Dallas, TX; San Francisco Museum, San Francisco, CA

Leo Castelli Ten Years, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY, 1961
Dziedzic, Erin, Melissa Messina, Valerie Cassel Oliver, and Lowery Stokes Sims. Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today. Kansas City, MO: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 2017. (color illus, fig 2, p. 15)

Goldman, Judith. Robert and Ethel Scull: Portrait of a Collection. New York: Acquavella Galleries, 2010. Exhibition catalogue. (P. 59).

Ravenal, John B. Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007. (Pp. 16-17).

Applin, Jo. "This Threatening and Possibly Functioning Object: Lee Bontecou and the Sculptural Void." Art History 29, no. 3 (June 2006): 476-502. (P. 483; no. 5.5, p. 485).

Smith, Elizabeth A. T., et al. Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2003. (No. 27, p. 38; p. 225).

Berrigan, Daniel. "The Tank." The Other Side 31, no. 2 (March/April 1995). (Pp. 57-58).

Art in America 9 (1993). (Cover).

Brandt, Frederick R. Late 20th Century Art. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1985. (No. 8, p. 20-21).

Spector, Jack. Twentieth-Century Art. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977.

A Selection of Fifty Works from the Collection of Robert C. Scull, sale catalog, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, NY, Oct. 18, 1973, no. 1 illus.

Documenta III (Kassel, West Germany: Paul Dierichs, 1964) p. 325 illus.

Seitz, William B. The Art of Assemblage. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961. (No. 18, p. 139).

Robert C. Scull, New York. (Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York) by 1973; Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Sydney and Frances Lewis, Richmond, Virginia in October 1973; [1] Gift to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in December of 1985.

[1] Lot #1, sale #3558, October 18, 1973. Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York.
© Lee Bontecou

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.