American, b. 1931
Graphite, soot, with erasure, scraping, and rubbing on paper
Sheet: 50.2 x 68.9 cm (19 3/4 x 27 1/8 inches)
The Albert Pilavin Memorial Collection of 20th Century American Art 72.051
In the late 1950s while working on metal sculpture, Lee Bontecou discovered that turning off the oxygen on her blowtorch caused a discharge of fine, rich, black dust that she could apply to paper and fabric. Deep-space black holes appeared in her work, along with a sense of wonder and an ominous feeling generated by Cold War fears. By the time RISD’s drawing was created, she had begun to incorporate stripes and grill imagery into pieces she referred to as Prisons, although this sheet is untitled. She pulled her imagery out of the dark soot with erasure, scraping, and rubbing with her fingers to create an eerie landscape reflective of both the natural and industrial worlds.