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Lee Pontico, the pioneering sculptor who pushed the model into limitless spaces, dies at 91

Lee Pontico, the pioneering sculptor who pushed the model into limitless spaces, dies at 91

Lee Bontico, one of the most skilled sculptors of the post-war generation, whose sewn-and-stitched buildings pushed sculpture to its limits, floor to wall, and then into the void, died Tuesday at her Florida home. She was 91 years old. Her death was first reported by The New York Times Tuesday.

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Bontecou made her artistic breakthrough in 1959, creating a body of instantly recognizable work unlike anything the New York art world had seen before or since. Taking the dirty cloth that had been used in conveyor belts and disposing of it by washing in the basement of an East Village loft on Avenue C, Bontecou cut these found boards, heated them with soot, and sewed them coarsely with wire over welded steel armor, always with a vacuum looms near its center.

Bontecou’s sculptures were wall-mounted, and arrived just before the fertile period as other artists similarly wonder how and where to display the sculptures. Because her art was pinned to the wall, those looming voids seemed boundless, boundless, and infinite. They transport one to other worlds, at the same time the other and the inner. Black holes that seemed to say something about the era – something you couldn’t put your finger on – were nonetheless poignant and evocative.

“I got tired of sculpting like a big thing in the middle of the room. Bontecou once said, according to him art story.

But Ponteco’s interest in space wasn’t just artistic talk. These actions were timely, indicating her fascination with the space age and the world’s obsession at the time with access to extraterrestrial worlds, with the Soviet Union launching Sputnik in 1957.

Ponteko later recalled, according to the Museum of Modern Art, “I had joy and excitement about outer space – nothing was known about black holes – just huge, intangible and dangerous entities, and I was very excited when little Sputnik flew.” It is among the dozens of major institutions that have combined their work.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, when it was first widely acclaimed, Bontecou’s works, mostly untitled, have often been misinterpreted. Because of her gender and at a time when second-wave feminism was on the rise, many saw vaginal and ultimately sexual spaces. Bontecou completely disagreed with any of these communications, saying years later in an interview with Chicago Reader That “Art is art, and it doesn’t mean it’s a man or a woman. It doesn’t matter.”

However, Bontecou broke the barriers that few female artists were able to break before her in the art world. In 1960, Ivan Karp, the legendary art dealer who was at the time assistant director at the Leo Castelli Gallery, visited her loft. In the 1969 Oral History with the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Karp recalled “Seeing these tent-like structures with their ferocious apertures is, you know, somewhat terrifying. And in contrast to them, this little girl [Bontecou] It was a rather disturbing experience.”

That year, Castelli, who had already established herself as a star maker with the important solos of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, featured Ponteco in a group show alongside these two performers and the others she represented. Then, later that year, after the solos of Frank Stella and Cy Twombly, Bontico held her first solo show at the show. For years, she was the only woman on Castelli’s list.

Great success soon followed, with the acquisition of the Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art, which then included a different piece by the artist in the exhibition Art of Assembly, curated by William Seitz, along with pieces by earlier figures such as Picasso, Braque, Duchamp and their contemporaries such as Rauschenberg and Willem de Kooning and Jean Tinguely. In 1963, architect Philip Johnson commissioned her to make a colossal 21-foot statue for Lincoln Center. That year she also participated in the Bienal de São Paulo and then in 1964 at Documenta III in Kassel, Germany.

It was always difficult to classify Bontecou’s art: it was not well suited to any particular movement after the war, and it did not look like the work that was in vogue at the time, and was made by a woman. Neither Abstract Expressionism nor Pop is not minimal, it was a body of work that was completely his own. The popularity and importance of her works declined and flowed over the following decades, often not being recognized until recently.

Curator Elizabeth A. electronic flow. “I think she was disappointed that her freedom as an artist was not appreciated or understood. What matters to her more than anything else is to be very free in what she chooses to make and live her life.”

Smith, who published an article on Bontecou in art in america In 1993, he added, “Bontecou can no longer be considered merely a historical figure whose work was important in the 1960s. Like it or not, she is here to stay.”

Lee Bontico was born in 1931 in Providence, Rhode Island. She spent her childhood in Westchester County, New York, with summers at a family college in Nova Scotia, where her mother was.

After high school, Bontecou spent two years at Bradford Junior College in Massachusetts before moving to New York in 1953, where she taught for five years at the storied Art Students League. During the summer of 1954, she had formative experience at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where she learned how to weld. From 1956 to 1957, she taught in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship.

During World War II, Ponteco’s mother Margaret worked in a factory that delivered submarine parts together. Besides almost obsessing with consuming world news and events from a young age, from the harrowing details of the Holocaust to the Cold War as it took place in real time, Bontecou’s practice encapsulates and fuses these influences together into sculptures that speak of the times. As her work progressed through the 1960s, it became more violent in nature, incorporating gas masks, helmets, and blades.

Towards the end of the decade, she had a daughter, Valerie, and by the 1970s, she had moved to rural Pennsylvania with her painter husband William Giles and Valerie, where she had grown tired of New York. “The whole town was turning into…a shop,” Pontico said for Ashton’s role in SAAM’s 2009 oral history. SoHo, as she moved her studio, “was turning into a zoo.” (Though, Pontico was returning to town to teach at Brooklyn College for two decades until 1991.)

After Valerie’s birth, Ponteko’s business was geared more towards her love of nature, which she first discovered during summers in Nova Scotia. These works, some of which were first shown in 1971 in Castelli, were often made of clear plastic and featured fish and flowers as their subject matter, captured, in typical Bontecou manner, to their extremes with exaggerated added elements that made them a little unsettling.

“No one saw them until I showed them,” Ponteko said in the 2009 Oral History. “And then everyone was disappointed, you know. They wanted more of the same age, and they didn’t get it.”

It ended up being Bontecou’s last show in New York for three decades, and despite her appointment as an instructor at Brooklyn College, she seemed to have disappeared from the art world at the height of her fame. (She even declined to have her work shown at the 1995 Whitney Biennale, after a major chase by its curator Klaus Kertesse.)

But Bontecou seems to enjoy it, especially not having the pressure of having to show up for an exhibition. She said in her 2009 oral history, “It was really cool. That was one of the reasons for teaching…it was freedom from all that….and so I didn’t have to argue—and Morris [Dorsky] You used to stomp and say, “Why don’t you show up” and all that stuff, and I’d say, “Oh, Maurice, get away.”

But after a health scare in the early 2000s, Pontico agreed to co-plan a large retrospective travel exhibition curated by Elizabeth AT Smith, who had previously organized a survey of her work in the 1990s at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Ann Philbin, Director Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Smith’s retrospective opened in Hammer in 2003, before stopping at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition, which also included works by Bontecou in the following 30 years that had never before been shown, brought renewed attention to Bontecou’s work, bringing her work back to the fore, which has inspired countless artists in the past two decades.

“When [Bontecou] Opening the barn door to her studio, it was truly one of the most shocking and exciting moments of my life,” said Philbin. ARTnews in a letter. “The barn has been filled with 30 years of extraordinary work done in self-imposed solitude. Rooted in nature and her vigorous imagination, Lee’s sculptures and drawings are fierce, fascinating, and utterly unique. Although determined to stay out of the mainstream, she stands out as one One of the most important artists of her time.

And although Bontecou’s art may have directly referred to the world as she saw it around her, she never wanted to define precisely what it was about. That was up to the viewer. as she said Chicago Reader When asked, “Do people ever ask you, ‘What does this mean? ‘ She answered coldly, ‘What do you say?’ That’s what you see in him. What I see in him is something else. I don’t get caught up in that.


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