Lee Bontecou (American, b.1931) is a sculptor and printmaker best known for her 1959 and 1960s canvas and iron sculptures, which hang on the wall like paintings. Bontecou was born in Providence, RI. For two years, she attended Bradford Junior College in Haverhill, MA. From 1952 to 1955, Bontecou attended the Art Studies League of New York. Her first class at the Art Studies League was taught by painter Robert Brackman (American, 1898–1980). She later studied with William Zorach (Lithuanian, 1887–1966), a fellow sculptor. Bontecou was granted Fulbright Scholarships in 1956 and 1958, which allowed her go to Rome to study sculpture and drawing. While in Rome, she created Abstract sculptures using terra cotta, but she later transitioned to creating welded iron sculptures.

In 1959, the artist received the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. During this time, Bontecou created Untitled (1959) and Untitled (1960), which were made with welded steel, canvas, wire, and black fabric. In the fall of 1960, Bontecou's first solo show was hosted by the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. Later, she began vacuum-forming plastic to create sculptures reminiscent of both gas masks and flowers, such as Untitled (1967). These pieces, which represented a sharp departure from her previous work, were shown by the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1971.

After the 1971 show, the artist left the gallery to avoid the pressures of having to create sculptures for new shows. From 1971 to 1991, Bontecou taught art at Brooklyn College in New York. She also continued her work at her residence in rural Pennsylvania. After teaching, Bontecou retired to Obisonia, PA. A 2003 retrospective, called Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, exhibited works she had completed during her retirement as well as pieces from her past shows. Starting in July 2004, the Museum of Modern Art in New York also hosted this retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art presented its own Bontecou retrospective in 2010, called All Freedom in Every Sense. The artist currently lives and works in Pennsylvania.

Timeline

1931
Born in Providence, RI on January 15. Raised in New York and Nova Scotia
1954
Spent summer at the Skowhegan School, Skowhegan, ME
1952–1955
Studied at the Art Students League, New York, NY with William Zorach (1887–1966), as well as Morris Kantor (1896–1974) and Robert Brackman (1898–1980).
1954–1955
Merit Scholarship, Art Students League, New York, NY
1955–1956
Ball Grant, Art Students League, New York, NY
1956
Fulbright Scholarship, Rome, Italy
1956–1957
Lived in Rome, Italy on a Fulbright Fellowship
1958
Returned to New York, NY and moved into a lower East Side loft on Avenue C
1959
Louis Comfort Tiffany Award
1960
Formed a personal acquaintanceship with Joseph Cornell
1960
Mademoiselle Woman of the Year
1962
Moved to a studio on Wooster Street, New York, NY
1963
2nd Prize, 28th Biennial of American Art, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
1964
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY
1965
Began living with her husband, William Giles, on Greene Street, but continued to work at her Wooster Street studio
1966
First Prize, National Institute of Arts and Letters
1970
Joined the faculty of Brooklyn College, City University of New York, New York, NY
1991
Retired from teaching
2003
Francis J. Greenburger Award
2004
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
2004
Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, City University of New York, New York, NY
2004
The Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture
2005
Award for best monographic exhibition in a national museum, Awarded to Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective (Co-organized with the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, 2003), International Association of Art Critics, Paris, France
2007
Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Cambridge, MA
Lee Bontecou lives and works in Orbisonia, PA

Exhibitions

2011
Lee Bontecou: Insights, ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany; Traveling to Kunst Sammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Germany (solo)
2011
FreedmanArt, New York, NY (solo)
2010
Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
2010
American Painting 1959–2009, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
2010
Compass in Hand, Selection from the Contemporary Drawing Collection of the Judith Rothschild Foundation, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia, Spain
2010
Form in Translation: Sculptors Making Prints and Drawings, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO
2010
Wall to Wall, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2010
Collecting Biennials, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
2009
The Art Show 21st Annual Exhibition, Knoedler & Company, New York, NY
2009
Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
2008–2009
Selections from the collection of Helga and Walther Lauffs, Zwirner & Wirth, New York, NY
2008
In Their Own Words, Friedman Benda Gallery, New York, NY
2008
Great Women Artists: Feminist Art From The Permanent Collection, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY
2008
Visions: Selections from the James T. Dyke Collection of Contemporary Drawings, Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR
2008
Artists in Depth: Works from the MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
2008
Action/Abstraction, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO
2008
Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976, The Jewish Museum of New York, New York, NY
2007–2008
Modern Times: Alumni Collect, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME
2007
Lee Bontecou: Vacuum-formed Sculptures and Related Drawings, Knoedler & Company, New York, NY (solo)
2007
Black & White and a little red..., David Klein Gallery, Birmingham, MI
2007
The third mind - Carte blanche a Ugo Rondinone, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France
2007
What Is Painting? - Contemporary Art from the Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
2007
The Shapes of Space, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
2007
The Wandering Eye - Works on Paper from the 60s and 70s, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
2006
Twice Drawn, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
2006
Lee Bontecou: Fifth Stone Sixth Stone, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (solo)
2005
Organic Abstraction: Homage to Ruth Duckworth at 85, Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
2005
2-D from 3-D: Contemporary and Historical Drawings by Sculptors, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
2005
Part Object, Part Sculpture, Curated by Helen Molesworth, Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
2005
Lee Bontecou: Selected Works, Gallery Salute to the 130th Anniversary of the Art Students League of New York, Knoedler & Company, New York, NY (solo)
2004
Lee Bontecou: Drawings 1958–1999, Knoedler & Company, New York, NY (solo)
2004
The Heroic Century: The Museum of Modern Art Masterpieces, 200 Paintings and Sculptures, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
2004
Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
2004
54th Carnegie International 2004–5, Including a Monographic Exhibition of works by Lee Bontecou, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
2003–2004
Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective, Curated by Elizabeth A.T. Smith with Ann Philbin, Co-organized with the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; The Museum of Modern Art, Queens, NY (solo)
2003
Crisis Response, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
2003
Drawing Modern: Works from the Agnes Gund Collection, The Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
2003
Black White, Danese, New York City, NY
2002
Crisis Response, The RISD Museum, University of Rhode Island, Providence, RI
2002
True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, CA
2002
Vertigo, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
2001
Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York, NY
2001
Lee Bontecou: Drawings, 1962–1998, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
2001
Winter Group Exhibition, Joseph Rickards Gallery, New York, NY
2001
About Objects, The RISD Museum, University of Rhode Island, Providence, RI
2000
Welded Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York, NY
2000
Sculpture by Richard Artschwager, Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1998–2000
Twentieth Century American Drawings From the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection, The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR; Traveled to Sunrise Museums, Charleston, WV; Philharmonic Center for the Arts, Naples, FL; Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, IN; Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN; Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID; Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL; Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont, TX; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI
1999
Drawing from the 60s & 70s: Joe Baer, Lee Bontecou, Eva Hesse, and Agnes Martin, Curt Marcus Gallery, New York, New York, NY
1999
The American Century: Art and Culture 1900–2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1999
Lee Bontecou, 1958–1972, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, New York, NY (solo)
1996
Fiber and Form: The Woman’s Legacy: Hannelore Baron, Lee Bontecou, Nancy Grossman, Eve Peri, Anne Ryan, Betye Saar, Lenore Tawney, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
1996
From a Curator’s Point of View: Making Selections and Forging Connections - Bontecou, Hesse, Judd, LeWitt, Marden, Morris, Smithson, Weatherspoon Arts Gallery, University of North Carolina at Greenboro, Greenboro, NC
1996
Kingdom of Flora, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
1996
50/50: Fifty Artists from Fifty Years of Skowhegan (Anniversary Exhibition & Raffle), PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York, NY
1996
Reliefs 1959-'60, Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, The Netherlands
1995
Lee Bontecou: Early Drawings, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo)
1995
Lee Bontecou: Reliefs, 1959–60, Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, The Netherlands (solo)
1994
Fine Lines, Anthony Slayter-Ralph, Santa Barbara, CA
1994
Printmaking in America: Collaborative Presses and Prints, 1960–1990, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ; The Mary Leigh Block Gallery, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1994
Animal Farm, James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
1994
Bontecou, Higgins, Moskowitz - Work From the 1960s, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1994
Selections from the Collection, Jay Gorney Modern Art, New York, NY; Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH
1993–1994
Lee Bontecou: Sculpture and Drawings of the 1960s, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Traveled to Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO (solo)
1993
The Second Dimension: Twentieth Century Sculptors’ Drawings, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
1993
Sculpture and Drawings of the 1960's, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
1993
Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY
1991
Smith Collects Contemporary, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA
1987
Leo Castelli and His Artists: 30 Years of Promoting Contemporary Art, Centro Cultural Arts Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico
1987
Alternative Supports: Contemporary Sculpture on the Wall, Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, RI
1987
20th Century Art in the Museum Collections; Direction and Diversity, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
1986
The Sculptural Membrane, Sculpture Center, New York, NY
1986
Definitive Statements: American Art 1964–66, Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, RI
1984–1985
The Third Dimension, Whitney Museum, New York, NY; Traveled to Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA
1984
Socialites and Satellites, Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York, NY
1984
The Third Dimension, Whitney Museum, New York, NY; Traveled to Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA
1984
Dorthy C. Miller: With an Eye to American Art, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA
1983
Nocturne, Seigel Contemporary Art, New York, NY
1982
Castelli and His Artists: Twenty-Five Years, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA; Traveled to Aspen Center for the Visual Arts, Aspen, CO; Portland Center for the Visual Arts, Portland, OR; Laguna Gloria Art Museum, Austin, TX
1982
The Americans: Collage 1950–82, Contemporary Art Museum, Austin, TX
1982
Universal Limited Art Editions: A Tribute to Tatyana Grosman, Whitney Museum of American Art, Downtown at Federal Reserve Plaza, New York, NY
1982
Women’s Art: Miles Apart, Aaron Berman Gallery, New York, NY; Traveled to Valencia Community College, Orlando, FL
1982
Universal Limited Art Editions: A Tribute to Tatyana Grosman, Whitney Museum of American Art, Downtown at Federal Reserve Plaza, New York, NY
1981
Selections from Castelli, Neil G. Ovsey Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1981
The New Dimensions in Drawing, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT
1981
Heresies, ULAE: Works by Lee Bontecou, Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, Alexander Liberman, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, James Rosenquist, and Andre Voznesenski, The Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, New York University, New York, NY
1980
Ed Ruscha, Billy Bengston, Edward Kienholz, Lee Bontecou, Ed Moses, Craig Kauffman - Paintings, Asher/Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1980
The Eclectic Mood in Black, Aaron Berman Gallery, New York, NY
1980
New York Collection Portfolio, Tyler Museum of Art, TX
1980
Reliefs, Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland
1980
From Reinhardt to Christo, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, OH
1980
Drawings to Benefit the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, Inc., Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1978
Collection: American Sculpture, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
1977
The Liberation: 14 American Artists (organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), American House, Berlin, Germany; Traveled to American Cultural Center, Budapest, Hungary; USIS Library Gallery, Rome, Italy; Ankara Bi-National Center Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey
1977
Lee Bontecou in Retrospect, Hawthorne Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
1977
Lee Bontecou in Retrospect: Drawings and Sculptures, Hathorn Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY (solo)
1976
Halper Gallery, Palm Beach, FL (solo)
1976
American Artists ‘76: A Celebration, Marion Koogler McKnay Art Institute, San Antonio, TX
1976
Contemporary American Prints, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
1976
Halper Gallery, Palm Beach, FL
1975
Prints and Drawings by Lee Bontecou, Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (solo)
1975
Thirty Artists in America, Part, Michael Walls Gallery, New York, NY
1974
Drawings, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1974
In Three Dimensions, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1973
Say it With Flowers, The Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
1973
American Drawing: 1970–1973, Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, CT
1972
Drawings: Barry, Bontecou, Daphnis, Flavin, Huebler, Johns, Judd, Kosuth, Lichtenstein, Morris, Nauman, Owen, Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Ruscha Serra, Sonnier, Stella, Twombly, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1972
Lee Bontecou, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (solo)
1971
Lee Bontecou: Sculpture, Drawings & Lithographs, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1971
Art on Paper, Weatherspoon Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC
1970
L’Art Vivant Americain, Foundation Maeght, Saint Paul-de-Vence, France
1970
Pittsburgh International Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA
1970
Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld, Germany
1970
The Drawing Society National Exhibition, American Federation of the Arts, New York, NY
1969
An American Report on the Sixties, Denver Art Museum, CO
1969
Contemporary Drawing Show, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, TX
1969
Ars ’69 Helsinki, Ateneum, Helsinki, Finland
1968
Sculpture Annual, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1968
Lee Bontecou: skupturen, tekeningen, lithos, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands (solo)
1968
Lee Bontecou, Städtisches Museum Schloß Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany (solo)
1968
Stadtisches Museum, Schloss Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany
1968
Kunstverein Giannozzo, Berlin, Germany
1968
Sculpture Annual, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1967
Sculpture: A Generation of Innovation, Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1967
Ten Years, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1966
Flint Invitational, Flint Institute of the Arts, Flint, MI
1966
Sculpture Annual, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1966
Group Show, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1966
National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
1966
The Jewish Museum, New York, New York:Harry N. Abrams Family Collection
1966
Drawings, University of Texas, Austin, TX
1966
Sculpture Annual, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1966
Lee Bontecou, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1965
Lee Bontecou, 1965, Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris, France (solo)
1964
The Whitney Annual, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1964
New American Sculpture, Pasadena Art Museum, CA
1964
Group Show, The New School, New YorkLeo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1964
Recent American Sculpture, The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
1964
The Whitney Annual, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1964
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY
1964
Painting and Sculpture of a Decade: 1959–1964, Tate Gallery, London, UK
1964
International Prize, Instituto Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1964
International Drawing Show, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany
1964
100 American Drawings, Byron Gallery, New York, NY
1964
The Artists’ Reality, Morris International Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1963
Americans 1963, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1963
Aspetti dell’Arte Contemporanea, L’Aguilla, Italy
1963
Donner à Voir, Galerie Creuze, Paris, France
1963
28th Biennial Exhibition, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC
1963
Whitney Annual Exhibition - Sculpture and Drawing, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1963
Drawings, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1963
1er Salon International de Galeries Pilotes, Musée Cantonal Des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland
1963
Mixed Media and Pop Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, NY
1963
The South County State Bank, Saint Louis, MO
1963
Americans, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1963
Dealer's Choice, (Arman, Bontecou, Dine, Kienholz, Klein, Lichtenstein, Oldenberg, Parker, Rauschenberg, Raysse, Reinhardt, Rivers, Rosenquist, Tinguely), Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1963
Whitney Annual Exhibition - Sculpture and Drawing, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1963
Americans, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1962
Lee Bontecou, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1962
65th Annual American Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1962
Art Since 1950, The Seattle World’s Fair, Seattle, WA
1962
Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris, France:Brandeis Universtiy, Waltham, MA
1962
Continuity and Change, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
1962
Group Show, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1962
Drawings, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1961
Six Sculptors, The Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1961
The Pittsburgh International Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA
1961
Whitney Annual Exhibition - Sculpture and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1961
Six Sculptors, (Peter Agostini, Lee Bontecou, Cesar, John Chamberlain, Edward Higgins, Louise Nevelson), The Dwan Gallery, New York, NY
1961
Le Nouveau Realisme, Galerie Rive Droite, Paris, France
1961
VI São Paulo Bienal, The São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, Brazil
1961
New York Scene, New London Gallery (Marlborough Fine Arts Limited), London, UK
1961
Sculpture and Relief, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1961
Society for Contemporary American Art, Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
1961
The Art of Assemblage, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1961
Group Show, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1961
Whitney Annual Exhibition - Sculpture and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1960
Lee Bontecou: Constructions, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1960
New Media—New Forms I and II, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, NY
1960
Women of American Art, World House Galleries, New York, NY
1960
Recent Acquisitions, 1960–61, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1960
Sculpture and Drawings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1960
Summary 1959–1960, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY
1959
Contemporary American Sculpture, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; Traveled to Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH
1959
Gallery G, New York, NY
1958
Festival of Two Worlds, Spoleto, Italy
1957–1958
Exhibition of Fulbright Awardees, Schneider Gallery, Rome, Italy