Lee Bontecou – watching you!

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Lee Bontecou walked away from Leo Castelli's gallery in the early 1970s after over ten years on the art fast track as part of the otherwise completely masculine stable of Castelli's artists.  Apparently a review of her last show there was very negative.  In Diane Calder's article for Lee Bontecou's retrospective the Hammer Museum at UCLA, she states

"Bontecou’s colorful, vacuum formed plastic sculpture and related drawings, which flopped in that last show at Castelli’s, are not an easy read. The naturalistic forms deemed sweet or maternal by some critics emerged at the same time as Rachel Carson’s wake-up call, Silent Spring. Bontecou reflects that the flowers, in their way, were saying, 'Okay, we have to have plants. If you don’t watch out, this is all we’ll have to remember what flowers used to look like, this kind of flower that is made out of plastic.'"

One wonders what it must have been like to be a woman working in an overwhelmingly masculine context back in the 1960s.  "Sweet" and "maternal"…  they were certainly picking up on the fact that she cared about nature and was clearly ahead of her time in the way she conveyed her dismay about the destructive side of humanity, indirectly and almost surrealistically compared to earlier work, but clearly these (male) critics own discomfort and/or complete lack of contact with the "sweet and maternal" side of their own natures was getting in the way of their understanding of her art.  What about that gas mask flower??? (see below).  Sweet and maternal are not words that come to my mind.

Bontecou's drawings are mesmerizing, literally and figuratively! below from 1997:


I'm particularly fascinated by the black whole/holes in her earlier work which alternate between being an opening and being a kind of violent, terrifying, aggressive void.  In many I feel an eye both looking back at me and engulfing me.  hmmm… below from 1960.


There's more than meets the eye here! we also have mouths, teeth…  the black is both emptiness and fullness.  She's always on that liminal edge between opposites of all kinds…

I really look forward to a show of her work in France.  Here's my favorite from what I could find on line.  There's apparently a good book out there too on the retrospective, only 35 euros!


More eyes, connections, planets…

I still think my favorites are from her last show at Castelli's, like the plastic flowers…


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