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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Lee Bontecou
American, born 1931
Welded steel, epoxy, canvas, fabric, saw blade, and wire

68 x 72 x 30 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of D. and J. de Menil

Arts of North America

In 1959, while enrolled at the Art Students League of New York, Lee Bontecou began constructing abstract hybrids of painting and sculpture. To create these objects, Bontecou salvaged bits of industrial canvas. She would suture the canvas scraps together with wire, adhering them to an underlying structure of welded metal. The resulting wall reliefs grew progressively in size over the years. Eventually she incorporated found objects such as gas masks, helmets, bits of ragged metal, or a saw blade, as seen here.

An eerie topological abstraction, Untitled hangs on the wall, embodying the interest of Minimalist artists to overcome the division between painting and sculpture. The rough-hewn fabrics and their ocular shapes are organic, while the salvaged steel and saw blade suggest a violent, destructive, life-threatening force. The seemingly ruptured surfaces reveal mysterious inner spaces. At once mechanistic and sexual, abstract yet evocative of the brutal forces of war, Bontecou's works are both of their time and distinctly her own.