Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds
Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1985. Charcoal, pencil, and colored pencil on colored paper.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. (The Judith Rothschild Foundation
Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift.) © Lee Bontecou.
January 31 — May 11, 2014
Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds is the first retrospective exhibition of the drawings of American artist Lee Bontecou. Born in 1931, the works selected span more than five decades of Bontecou’s career, from the late 1950s, when she began her innovative works on paper with welding torch and soot as a drawing tool and medium while studying in Rome as a Fulbright Scholar, to the work that is ongoing in her Pennsylvania studio. Like her sculptures, which are made primarily of welded steel, canvas, porcelain, and vacuum-formed plastic, her drawings highlight the ingenuity and bravura of her experiments with materials and ways of creating and making spatial form.
For the post-World War II generation, the 1950s and 1960s were decades of enormous contrasts. The exploration of space took place in the shadow of the Holocaust and the massive destructive consequences of the war to humanity and the environment. Concerns about our natural habitat as a place to be restored, conserved and kept hospitable were joined by rising anxieties about the repercussions of technological and scientific progress and the Cold War.
Responding to these circumstances, Bontecou’s drawings study, and reflect the human-made and natural environment as twin perceptual frameworks. She variously draws, sketches, pencils, soots, inks, brushes, and colors the diverse features of her imagery: vestiges and semblances of airplanes, sails, teeth, eyes, guns, black holes, prison bars, take their place alongside seashells, birds, insects, flowers, ocean waves, landscapes, and the horizon. Mixing menace, oddity, and marvel, Bontecou’s drawings are uniquely free, inviting meditation on how our present must be continually reimagined, and respectfully re-created in response to the perils, advances and impossibilities of the contemporary moment.
The Menil Collection is delighted to introduce and document a group of drawings and a first sketchbook from the late 1950s in this exhibition, which have never before been exhibited, and were chosen by the artist for this special occasion. Bontecou has additionally selected an important recent sculpture to accompany the works on paper to further illustrate the inseparable connection between drawing and sculpture in her oeuvre.
“Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds,” is curated by Michelle White for The Menil Collection, and will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with new scholarly texts. The exhibition will travel to The Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, June 28 - September 21, 2014.
This exhibition is generously supported by Louisa Stude Sarofim; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation; Marilyn Oshman; Agnes Gund; and the City of Houston.