In conjunction with Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, which is due for publication in June, MoMA recently opened a small exhibition of works by American sculptor Lee Bontecou.
The show is comprised of a selection of her works on paper, two of her steel-and-canvas reliefs, and one mobile. Her biomorphic forms are darkly evocative and speak of unknown worlds teeming with vitality and movement. As quoted in the wall texts for the exhibition, one early reviewer asked, “Is it a pterodactyl? A spaceship? An outsized artichoke or a monstrous whorl of giant flower corollas?” There is indeed something distinctly foreign in them, maybe prehistoric, maybe from another planet.
Bontecou’s work stirs something visceral in me. The massive physicality of her reliefs incites an acutely physical response. Surely these must be contemplated with the body, not just with the mind. At once, I want to climb inside her enormous wall-mounted sculptures and yet, I am afraid of what lurking creature might emerge: something clammy and pale, with long fingers, I expect.
Of her own work, Bontecou has stated, “To glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty and mystery that exists in us all…The individual is welcome to see and feel in them what he wishes in terms of himself.”
A writer for the Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1969 noted, “Freudians surely find happy hunting here.”
If you happen to venture north in the coming months, do visit MoMA’s exhibition (but please resist the urge to crawl inside the art). Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense will be on display through August 2010.
In addition to Bontecou, Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art includes work from: Maya Deren (whose face appears on the cover), Ana Mendieta, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus, Adrian Piper, Nan Goldin, and Bridget Riley, among others.
Additional images from a 2003-2004 retrospective of Bontecou’s work at the UCLA Hammer Museum can be found here.