Lee Bontecou was one of the most influential female artists in the 60s and 70s in the art scene. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Lee Bontecou grew up outside of New York City. Both of her parents were industrial intellectuals worked during the World War II. They indeed had much influence on Bontecou. In her early childhood and young adulthood, Bontecou was always a fan of science and nature. This can be seen later in her works: Untitled, that struked people with their organic yet abstract expressions. Untitled series were consist of painted canvas and wires that formed into three dimensional sculpture-paintings with black void in the middle. These voids consist of organic forms and abstract expression were made through unconventional process, which expressed Lee Bontecou’s love for freedom of expression.
According to many Bontecou’s drawings, she always stay truth to her fascination with natural wonders of the universe. She drew many of her inspirations and later made them into three dimensional. These works related to technological and scientific progress of the natural world. She drew objects like models, airplanes, shells, skulls, submarines, flowers, vertebrae, fish, black holes, and aeronautical machine parts. These mini drawings later inspired her sculpture works. Her Untitled work in 1964 that was exhibited at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was made from one of her sketches of airplanes that had indirectly affected the design of this art piece.(White, 2014) Drawings natures gave Bontecou a starting point for her three dimensional works. Not only is the form of the works is organic but the Untitled series
also followed the Epicurean philosophy. According to Lucretius, famous Epicurean Greek philosopher:
“Nature—unqualified being— has two forms that make it up; the atoms and the void where atoms are placed and travel their varied paths that matter existed we learn as do all men, by the senses; these we trust first, last, and always; else we should have no point of reference for reasoned proof of the nature of things unseen. And then, for “place” and “space” which we call “void” without it, atoms would have nowhere to be.” (Carus, 1975)
In Epicurean philosophy, the void is a crucial part of the universe, that the universe only has matters and voids. Lucretius said that the only way to prove the existence of unseen natural thing is through direct sensorial and physical experiences.(White, 2014) This philosophy can be applied to Bontecou’s works because of their emphasis on the void. In Bontecou’s drawings and sculptures, the void is represented as gaps. These protruding forms swell from the wall, creating crevices that bring direct sensorial relationships to the audience. It is as though the void is reaching towards the audience. They are like organic tunnels that lead audience into the unknown. Bontecou’s arrangements of voids in her sculptures are quite kafka-esqus.
Certainly, she created something outlandish works by using unusual methods and expression. A lot of her works are certainly products of abstract expressionism, but Bontecou is just simply an experimentalist who enjoy using different form of expression to convey her ideas. During the 50s and 60s, artists were still using conventional materials whereas Bontecou had already using different types of materials to make sculptures. The voids theme pieces are examples of abstract expressionism but also possessed a style minimalism. Although, she were always considered a crucial role in Feminism Art Movement, she never assigned herself to
specific movement. Bontecou had tremendous respect for the Abstract Expressionist artists.(Cannato, 2008) She appreciated the freedom of expression and the ability to experiment. Like any Abstract Expressionist, Bontecou committed to an expressive art that’s full of profound emotion and themes. This new style from 30s and 50s fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma. Lee Bontecou herself was an experimentalists who explored the possibilities of other media in her early career. While many people trying to label her works, she simply likes to enjoy the freedom of expression.
The void were presented and illustrated by unconventional ways with cut canvas, copper wire, and sprayed soot to create nautilus shapes, which is the predominant style in Untitled series, that was uncomment in the 50s and 60s. Bontecou first began to draw illusionistic nautilus space in the late 1950s. While in Rome on a Fulbright scholarship, she found the potential of using the welding torch to draw. She later discovered that by moving the torch back and forth could spray the carbon-based powder to build up layers on the canvas. The sweeping gestures created various tones of dark shades to give deepth on her sculptures.(Applin, 2010) In Untitled 1964, now is part of private collection, the forms of this early piece didn’t recede but emerge from the dark thanks to her subtractive method of taking away the pigment from the canvas.(White, 2014) The spatial illusionism that was created by these unconventional ways helped her sculptural work to enter a new way of expression. The light sucking soot-covered antireflective planes that she tucked into the sculptures to create the illusion of depth through blackness. The nautilus shapes are references from nature and marine life. The Untitled series mainly relates to the infinite mystery and wonder of the unknown void. This was expressed through layers of gray and black that brought out the unsettled undertone within. The iron wire later were interpreted as brutality by later artists. The product of unconventional methods made
these experience real. According to Bontecou, she chose relief out of a desire to have the illusion you get from a pencil drawing.(White, 2014)
Lee Bontecou was one of the leader in her age with her organic works. The intricately constructed voids became her most noticeable works. These voids seem to have its own dimensions, like a portal connected to alien worlds or unknows. Indeed, her methods, styles, and materials, were vaguely unsettling, but at the same time, filled with heavy emotions. The Untitled holes are like many abysses that attracts others onto the emotion journey. Her organic yet abstract works that were made out of unexpected material were truly unique in the art scene. It’s a unique way of calling out emotions. Bontecou is master of freedom of expression.
When I first saw Lee Bontecou’s Untitled series, I was sucked into these big holes. The untitled works on the wall are like magnet that pulls people towards it’s organic and spirited shapes.
For the artists trap: I’m going to hypnotize my favorite artists Lee Bontecou.
The way I am going to approach this trap is to use the aspect of her own works.
Through out the video, I’m trying to imitate Bontecou’s black hole and attempt to drag her in to the mystery. The mystery is unknown, but the act of falling for this video is like a trap. It’s a calming video, that forces people fall into this hypnotizing journey.