Lee Bontecou

A Retrospective

October 5, 2003 - January 11, 2004


Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective is the most comprehensive exhibition ever assembled of this influential 20th century American artist—one of the few women artists to receive major recognition in the 1960s. Co-organized by the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the exhibition features approximately 70 sculptures and 80 drawings from private and public collections as well as from the artist’s own holdings. It documents the complexity and scope of Bontecou’s art, from the late 1950s through 2003, with many works that have rarely or never before been publicly shown during the past 30 years.

The exhibition was curated by Elizabeth A.T. Smith, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in association with Ann Philbin, Director of the Hammer Museum. Following its debut at the Hammer Museum, the exhibition will be presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, from February 14 through May 30, 2004, and will travel to MoMA QNS, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from July 30 through September 27, 2004.

About the Exhibition

By Elizabeth A. T. Smith

One of the few women artists to achieve broad recognition in the 1960s, Lee Bontecou created a strikingly original body of work from the late 1950s to the present. Co-organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Hammer Museum, this exhibition surveys almost fifty years of her work, including numerous recent sculptures and drawings that have never before been exhibited. It provides an extraordinary opportunity to reconsider an artist who has become a legendary figure due to the powerful impact of her work of the 1960s and 1970s and the relevance and interest it still holds for many younger artists.

Whether heroically scaled or intimate, Bontecou’s predominantly abstract work has consistently incorporated figurative, organic, and mechanistic references to states of transformation between the natural and the man-made. From her early sculptures—wall-mounted, three-dimensional objects in which geometric fragments of canvas and other materials are stretched over and fastened onto welded metal framework—to the explosive intricacy of her most recent pieces, many of which are suspended in space, Bontecou’s greatest preoccupation as an artist has been to encompass "as much of life as possible—no barriers—no boundaries—all freedom in every sense." More

The national tour is made possible by The Henry Luce Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Friedrike Merck, and Sarah-Ann and Werner H. Kramarsky. The accompanying catalogue was made possible, in part, by Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, and The Ruth and Murray Gribin Foundation.

What's new at the hammer