Lee Bontecou is an American artist best known for the sculptures she created in 1959 and the 1960s, which challenged artistic conventions of both materials and presentation by hanging on the wall like a painting. They consist of welded steel frames covered with recycled canvas (such as conveyor belts or mail sacks) and other found objects. Her best constructions are at once mechanistic and organic, abstract but evocative of the brutality of war.
She exhibited at Leo Castelli's art gallery in the 1960s, and one of the largest examples of her work is located in the lobby of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
She retired from the art world to Orbisonia, Pennsylvania. After decades of obscurity, she was brought back to public attention by a 2003 retrospective co-organized by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, that traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2004. The retrospective included both work from her public, art-world career and an extensive display of work done after retreating from the public view. Bontecou's work was also included in the Carnegie International 2004-5 exhibit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, the David H. Koch Theater (New York City), the David Winton Bell Gallery (Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island), the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York), the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City) are among the public collections holding major works by Lee Bontecou.