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Lee Bontecou

Untitled, 1961


Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961, 1961  61.41
Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961, 1961. Welded steel, canvas, wire, and rope, 72 5/8 × 66 × 25 7/16 in. (184.5 × 167.6 × 64.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  61.41 For Teachers
© Lee Bontecou

about this work

Between 1959 and the mid-1960s, Lee Bontecou made large-scale, metal-and-canvas wall reliefs. These hybrids of painting and sculpture were created by welding a metal armature and then using suture-like stitches to attach fragments of canvas with copper wire. Bontecou scavenged most of the canvas from bags and conveyor belts discarded by the laundry below her New York studio. She also included other found objects, such as grommets, saw blades, and rope. These objects are configured into a complex assemblage that hangs on the wall like a painting but projects more than two feet into the room. The visual allusions generated by this configuration range from destructive man-made devices to organic and geological structures: riveted airplane engines, celestial black holes, gun barrels, volcanoes, human orifices, and the segmented shells of insects. Bontecou has said that her art responds to the historical moment in which it was created: “I wish my work to represent or to be a part of my time. . . I want them to be things and facts inside us—from war to the wonders of the space age.”

Maxwell L. Anderson. American Visionaries: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2001), 55.


Audio guide stop for Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961, 1961  61.41

look closer

What do you notice about this work?

What materials do you think the artist may have used to make this work of art? How can you tell?

How do you think the artist put these materials together?

What words would you use to describe this piece?

Does it remind you of anything?


Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961, 1961  61.41 For Teachers

Ask students to spend a minute looking at this image. Lee Bontecou lived above a New York City laundry, and she used discarded pieces of material and machines from the laundry in her sculpture. What other materials can students see?

Ask students to make three lists of words that describe this work. Each list should focus on a different part of speech, such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Have students circle one word from each list and share these with a small group. The group can work together to come up with a short poem or a few sentences that use these wonderfully descriptive words!

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