February 10, 2015

A Figure and a Lee Bontecou Collage

For the last three days, I have been working on one of my slow, detailed pencil drawings. The original sketch was from a model dating way back to graduate school at Parsons School of Design. Like most of my sketches from that time, the composition was spare. The figure rested in front of a blank square on the wall. It was originally a backdrop that consisted of a wild and wooly painting by one of my classmates. In other drawings from that time, I sketched in the painting - a strange imaginary scene replete with floating figures and mythical horned beasts.

Time has made the memory of my reasons for leaving the painting out fuzzy. In looking at the sketch again, the blank space behind the figure beckoned for content. For this content I chose to pencil in a mixed media collage by the artist Lee Bontecou. Lee Bontecou’s collage of canvas and metal dates from 1961. I chanced upon it when I rediscovered an anthology of American Women Artists by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein. At the book’s publication in 1982 the collage was in the Whitney Museum and I suppose it is still there.

In most of my new drawings from old sketches, I include an homage to another art work in the composition. I have used primitive art, folk art, old master paintings, and even some of my own art work. I chose a women artist from the 1960's this time because I realized that I had not used the work of women artists much and decided to remedy the situation. The 1961 art work is there on account of a memory I had of the man who posed for the painting. He liked to watch old films, in particular films from the early sixties. The model was especially fond of the 1963 film, Bye Bye Birdie.

My choice of the art of Lee Bontecou was apt, for I felt that there was a evolution in her art from relief sculpture to drawing that I could relate to, as it paralleled my own development in recent years. Bontecou was a star of the 1960's who selected, or perhaps was consigned to, a quieter life for the next few decades before bursting on the scene again in the 21st century with a retropective at the Smithsonian in 2004 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ist/?next=/arts-culture/lee-bontecous-brave-new-world-180940 I like the ovoid shapes in Bontecou’s work. They seem to serve both as solid egg-like structures as well as voids. The saw blade that she incorporated in her "Untitled" work from 1961 that serves as the backdrop in my drawing adds a disarming note of aggression.

In a final stroke of kitsch in juxtaposition with serious art, I added a small heart by the model’s left side. After all, Valentine’s day will soon be upon us.

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