Lee Bontecou

Lee Bontecou made her most famous work in the late '50s and early '60s, just when AE was waning as a coherent and dominant movement. Indeed, her work has more often been seen as a precursor to Minimalism (the next big thing for male artists), and its relation to AE is rather tenuous.

Mostly, what ties her work to AE is the simple fact of making huge rectangular canvas things to hang on walls. In the context in which she worked and showed her work, making steel-and-canvas reliefs that exploded the traditional picture plane was a direct challenge to a movement that relied on it; at once in the way of physical assault and insofar as she revealed the made-ness of the picture plane, its status as an object composed of armature and, crucially, a particular kind of cloth. 


Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1962. Canvas, welded steel and wire construction, 144.78 x 138.43 x 55.88 cm. Coll. Manfred and Jennifer Simchowitz. Photo: Brian Forrest.

But of course the connection goes beyond that, to the idea that part of the point of "art" is to communicate a powerful emotional charge, and to do so through bodily contact with a monument (Bontecou's works are in fact smaller, in two dimensions, than many AE paintings). The black hole at the (at least conceptual) center of her works, which is at once seductive and terrifying, does this very well. 

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