Lee Bontecou at Hackett Mill


The Animalia theme for the 2016 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show was chosen because it is fanciful, and playful, intriguing and timeless - and includes the kingdom of all animals. It is a subject that has been interpreted in just about every discipline, technique, and material throughout time and it is relatable to everyone - modern and traditional, antiquities to contemporary. Mankind has always been fascinated with the beauty and mystery of the animal kingdom, creating symbolism and meaning, and the Latin word Animalis literally means “Having Soul”. 

An excellent example of this soul – however fierce, powerful and dark it may be – is Cruel Bird (1957/2005), a brazed and welded copper, terra cotta, cement and steel sculpture by Lee Bontecou at Hackett | Mill, a first-time exhibitor at the show.



Lee Bontecou is an abstract sculptor best known for her reconciliation of sculpture and painting. She studied at the Art Students League in New York and made a prolonged visit to Rome from 1956-1958 on a Fulbright Scholarship. While in Rome, Bontecou experimented with sculptural materials and techniques including welded steel and terra cotta. When Bontecou returned to New York she established her reputation through the creation of sculptural reliefs that challenged the artistic conventions of both materials and presentation. She is best known for her web-like constructions of found objects (including recycled canvas, conveyor belts and mail sacks, among other objects) attached to a welded steel frame around a central oval void, which were then hung on the wall like paintings.


Working in a style of abstracted figuration, Bontecou created a number of animal forms in terra cotta in her early career. These animals, many of them birds, are highly cubistic. Cruel Bird (1957/2005) is constructed from industrial materials that challenge its subject matter. Bontecou mixes and manipulates unexpected materials, resulting in a work that is at once mechanistic and organic, imposing and elegant.



In 2010 the MOMA presented a retrospective of Bontecou's work. Bontecou is collected by major museums worldwide including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art and many others.

Hackett | Mill, founded by Michael Hackett and Francis Mill, presents rare works from the 1950s and 1960s by important American, European, and Asian artists. The gallery focuses on historical movements that took place in the mid- twentieth century including American Modern, Post-War Abstract Expressionism and California/Bay Area Figurative Art. Michael Hackett and Francis Mill each bring over twenty years of expertise and education in fine arts. Through their shared passion, Hackett | Mill represents a unique experience with art that is both scholarly and inspirational.