January 14, 2014 - Menil Collection - Lee Bontecou
January 14, 2014

Lee Bontecou

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1982. Casein on woodboard, 12 x 15 inches. Collection of the artist. © 2013 Lee Bontecou. Photo: Paul Hester.

Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds
January 31–May 11, 2014

The Menil Collection
1533 Sul Ross Street
Houston, TX 77006 


Organized by Curator Michelle White for the Menil Drawing Institute

Throughout her distinguished career, Lee Bontecou (b. 1931) has created drawings as a vital component of her artistic practice, both in relation to the sculptures for which she is renowned, and as independent works of art. Exhibitions (including a landmark retrospective in 2003) have occasionally paired her sculptures and drawings, but no museum to date has dedicated an exhibition solely to this distinct aspect of her work.

Beginning January 31, 2014, the Menil Collection will become the first museum to present a retrospective of this major facet of the artist’s oeuvre in Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds. The exhibition is organized by Menil Curator Michelle White under the auspices of the Menil Drawing Institute (MDI). 

On view through May 11, Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds spans the years 1958 through 2012 with approximately 76 works drawn from the museum’s own holdings and from other institutions (including The Museum of Modern Art, LACMA, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). Works from private collections include more than two dozen of the artist’s drawings. Stated Josef Helfenstein, director of the Menil Collection: “Lee Bontecou’s drawings provide us with a new way of seeing the world while also illustrating the power of the medium. Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds takes its place as the most recent in the series of exhibitions, such as Richard Serra Drawing, that exemplify the founding principles of the Menil Drawing Institute.”

Truly “drawn” worlds, Bontecou’s drawings take us into unsettling realms of human folly and the frailty of the natural world. Often characterized by gaping black holes, undulating form, and sinuous organic lines, they have been consistently experimental in their materials and technique, beginning with the artist’s early use of a welding torch to deposit velvety layers of black soot on paper, muslin, and canvas. The exhibition will examine the historical context of the artist’s characteristic imagery, linking Bontecou’s use of the circle and the void with her political and environmental concerns. Curator Michelle White added, “It is thrilling to be able to present such a remarkable and unknown group of drawings to our audience. Spanning over fifty years, the works are a testament to the artist’s important place in postwar American art.” 

“With Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds,” said Allegra Pesenti, Chief Curator of the MDI, “my colleague Michelle White significantly advances our understanding of one of the leading artists of our time. Like this exhibition, the MDI emerges from inquiries into the fundamental nature of drawing itself.”  

Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring new essays by Michelle White, Dore Ashton, and Joan Banach about the artist and her drawing practice. 144 pp., 91 color illustrations. Hardcover (paper over board).

The exhibition will travel to the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, from June 28 through September 21, 2014.

Vance Muse or Gretchen Sammons, Menil Press Office
press [​at​] menil.org / T +1 713 535 3170


Lee Bontecou at the Menil Collection
Menil Collection
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