Lee Bontecou

People living in New York take smug satisfaction in the “privileges” of being in the cultural capital of the world. It’s not uncommon to hear that most major cultural productions — shows, films, art exhibits, musical events, etc. — either originate in or pass through New York at some time or other. New York has Broadway, Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Kitchen, uptown, midtown and downtown art galleries, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Whitney. Oh, right…and the Guggenheim. But this time around, New Yorkers are the last in line (or, in Gotham patois, “online”) to see the Lee Bontecou exhibition which opened this week at MoMA QNS.

There has been widespread enthusiasm for the show with no serious questions or criticisms of the work raised in the major reviews (Plagens, Sussman, Cooper). The metaphors have ranged from the celebratory to the biblical, with resurrective (Lazarus) and redemptive (prodigal daughter) narratives embedded in largely descriptive answers to the question, “What has she been doing in isolation over the last 30 years while in exile from the New York artworld?” That seems to be the question to which Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective is the answer. Now, at the museum in exile, New Yorkers have the luxury of judging for themselves (and with hindsight) whether the critical response to the LA and Chicago exhibitions is all there is to say about this substantive body of work. Michael Kimmelman weighs in with this review.

(To be continued…)

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