Lee Bontecou

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

Lee Bontecou’s story is an art-world fairy tale: sudden celebrity followed by withdrawal, even reclusion; then, rediscovery and newfound status. This show retells that narrative with sixteen works owned by the Museum of Modern Art and one loan (all but three are works on paper), while skipping a midcareer chapter and mounting the whole affair in what seems little more than a landing off the elevator. True, the museum presented a robust Bontecou survey some six years ago. That said, this account tends to validate a widespread indifference to Bontecou’s later output, a disinterest that the presentation of a recently acquired major late work—the sculpture Untitled, 1980–98—does little to dispel.

Arguably, this flattening of effect is traceable to the artist’s pointed departure to rural Pennsylvania in 1971. There, with her husband, the reputedly contrarian artist William Giles, Bontecou devoted

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