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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.