Lee Bontecou

Knoedler & Company

Lee Bontecou achieved success in the early 1960s with shaped paintings and wall-mounted assemblages that hovered on the edge of figuration, vaguely suggesting bodies, buildings, and machines. Though resistant to narrative, the works’ telescoping elements lend them an aggressive feel, while their orifices seem to suggest a secret, subcutaneous functionality. Shreds of canvas tied to welded steel armatures, some incorporating menacing, mouthlike saw blades, transcend the aesthetic of impoverishment as a purely formal device to suggest pathologies of the unknown, war, and death. A ongoing sequence of drawings of gas masks, begun in 1961, complements this bleak vision.

By the late ’60s, Bontecou’s latent references to hybrid natural-artificial forms had effloresced into sculptures and drawings of fish and flowers, and it was a selection of these works (some of which were first exhibited at Leo

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