I like space that never stops. . . . Black is like that. Holes and boxes mean secrets and shelter.
One of the few women artists to achieve broad recognition in the 1960s, Lee Bontecou captured the public's attention in 1959, when she was 28, with a group of constructions, or assemblages, created with scrap fabric stretched over welded steel frames. Her reliefs, which simplify and emphasize the differences in practice between painting and sculpture, are attached to a frame and project out from the wall. Untitled No. 38 is a rather menacing assembly of scavenged canvas, wire, hardware, and saw blades. Inside its protruding openings are scraps of velvet that make the interior spaces seem almost endless.
Bontecou has discussed the effect that the threat of nuclear war has had on her work. She describes members of her generation as having been "born into that situation in which we can end it all!" The combination of beauty and darkness in Untitled No. 38 suggests her frequently quoted aspiration to "glimpse some of the fear, hope, ugliness, beauty, and mystery that exists in us all and which hangs over all the young people of today."