Cover image for Lee Bontecou : a retrospective
Lee Bontecou : a retrospective
Bontecou, Lee, 1931-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : Museum of Contemporary Art ; Los Angeles : UCLA Hammer Museum ; New York : Harry N. Abrams, [2003]

Physical Description:
240 pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
General Note:
Published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name held at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Oct. 5, 2003-Jan. 11, 2004, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Feb. 14-May 30, 2004 and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 28-Sept. 27, 2004.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6537.B6 A4 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



One of the leading female artists of the late 20th century. Lee Bontecou (b. 1931) became widely known for her welded steel sculptures and plastic and epoxy molded assemblages from the 1960s and 1970s. Her powerful and original constructions, which were both critically acclaimed and actively collected, evoked natural phenomena and organic biological life even as they grew more abstract. This monograph--the first extensive analysis of her art--presents some 50 sculptures and more than 100 drawings, including her celebrated early works as well as later pieces that are little known and have never been publicly exhibited or published. Along with four original essays, this volume also includes a reprint of Donald Judd's influential 1965 Arts Magazine article on Bontecou. At last, through this major survey of her work--which accompanies an exhibition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and ULCA Hammer Museum--we are able to reevaluate the career of an artist who has become legendary in the art world because of the impact of her striking early work and the enormous influence she continues to have on younger artists.

Author Notes

Elizabeth A. T. Smith, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago since 1999, was formerly curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where she organized exibitions including "Blueprints for Modern Living: History and legacy of the Case Study Houses," "Urban Revisions: Current Projects for the Public Realm," and "At the End of the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture." She has also curated exhibitions on the work of artists including Cindy Sherman, Rebecca Horn, Lee Bontecou, Uta Barth, Toba Khedoori, and Catherine Opie.

She was Adjunct Professor in the School of Fine Arts' Public Art Studies Program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and has published and lectured widely on a variety of topics in contemporary art and architecture.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the most acclaimed figures in the New York art world during the 1960s, Lee Bontecou dropped out the galley scene in the mid-1970s, choosing, instead, to work on her sculptures alone. This catalogue, which is timed to coordinate with major exhibitions of Bontecou's work in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, aims to reassert the reclusive woman's place in art history-and succeeds. The catalogue's full-color plates cover all of Bontecou's career, from the welded-steel and canvas boxes that made her name in the 1960s to the intricate porcelain and wire sculptures that comprise her latest series. Bontecou's work is deeply organic-many of the sculptures resemble catfish or seagulls or flowers. As early as 1971, one critic dubbed her a "strange naturalist." Other interpretations of her work can be found in this book's five essay-length monographs. In the first, "All Freedom in Every Sense," curator Smith provides a career biography of the artist. Storr's "Seek and Hide" attempts "to situate [her sculpture] within a context that was contiguous with but outside the American mainstream." Judd's monograph argues that Bontecou's work derives its force from its rejection of solipsism, skepticism and irony. As the first comprehensive book on Bontecou, this catalogue has great scholarly importance. And the traveling exhibition should generate press coverage, such as Calvin Tompkin's profile the August issue of the New Yorker, which may make this book popular with a wider audience as well. 175 color illustrations. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

Her welded steel and canvas wall relief hangs in the entryway of the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, and she had shows at the Leo Castelli Gallery, the MoMA New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, from 1960 through the early 1970s. Her abstract sculptures, which alluded to space travel as much as to the natural world, drew critical attention, most famously by Donald Judd in Art Magazine. And yet Lee Bontecou (b. 1931) has hidden from view since a mid-career retrospective in 1972. As this exhibition catalog makes clear, when she quit the art scene she didn't quit making art. Gathered for this retrospective are not only the works that made her famous but those created during her relative seclusion. She has recently incorporated porcelain, plastics, and wire into fantastic, complex new forms and throughout has continued drawing. The 50 sculptures and 100 drawings shown here were assembled by Smith, a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where the exhibition is on display through May 30 (after opening at the UCLA Hammer Museum, later to travel to MoMA Queens). Essays by Robert Storr and others discuss possible influences, themes, and contexts. The show will be a revelation to many, and this fine catalog is exciting to see.-Carolyn Kuebler, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Bontecou (born 1931) made a splash on the New York art scene in the 1960s but later dropped out of sight, and only now, 40 years later, is her work at last given detailed treatment in a book-length monograph. The volume accompanies an exhibition organized by Smith, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, who provides an essay here (one of five in all). Much of the book consists of crisp color plates of Bontecou's sculptures and drawings. Most famous are the welded-steel-and-canvas works of 1959-66 that seemed to the Vietnam generation frighteningly reminiscent of war machines, with gaping and sharply serrated black orifices. Far less familiar are the fish-derived constructions of 1967-70, and entirely new and strange is Bontecou's revived work of the 1990s, as revealed here: half space station, half many-eyeballed monster. Even the best photographs cannot truly capture the three-dimensionality of her creations. An important Arts Magazine article on Bontecou (1965) by minimalist sculptor Donald Judd is reproduced in its entirety. This well-conceived book is a long-overdue tribute to Bontecou's career, which contributed unforgettably to the visual imagery of the anxious 1960s. ^BSumming Up: Essential. General readers; graduate students through professionals. W. B. Maynard Johns Hopkins University