What: New exhibition
Spirals in Space and Time: The Art of Leslie Bohnenkamp (1943-1997)
Where: Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth
When: August 10, 2004 – March 26, 2005
Exhibition Reception: September 21, 7pm (following lecture)
The Tweed Museum of Art is proud to present this groundbreaking exhibition of sculpture by Leslie Bohnenkamp (1943-1997), whose accidental death cut short a promising career. Bohnenkamp began at the University of Iowa as a textile designer and weaver, and soon after began producing the knotted, woven and coiled paper sculptures he became known for in the 1970’s and 80’s.
Exhibited at Betty Parsons Gallery, in dozens of group exhibitions, and later at Joseph Rickards Gallery, Bohnenkamp’s sculptures, with their intriguing animal-like forms and richly colored surfaces, were well received by critics, collectors, and the general public. A resident artist at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Haystack School of Crafts, Bohnenkamp rode the wave of change from fiber as a “functional craft” to its use as a material for producing bold new sculptural forms. He mastered and adapted the time-honored techniques of braiding, knotting, coining and weaving, and even wrote his thesis on traditional Osage braiding techniques. Bohnenkamp then went on to create a unique and individualistic vocabulary of forms, all of which used spirals as their physical and conceptual basis. Bohnenkamp observed micro- and macrocosmic forms of nature, and translated the ubiquitous spiral into a working technique which remains visually fresh and meaningful even after thirty years of art world change.
During a short but extremely prolific career, Bohnenkamp produced his signature sculptures by coiling and spiraling strips of paper, onto which he painted, rubbed and burnished rich color. Often grouped into installations and affectionately referred to as “herds,” the sculptures are typically abstract, but are also playfully reminiscent of shells, mollusks, horns, and other natural forms. The “spirals” acknowledged in the show’s title originate in Les Bohnenkamp's earliest fiber sculptures, and continued to be used in his very last works of coiled paper. Hit by a car in New York, where he lived with fellow artist (and UMD alumnus) Bill Shipley, Bohnenkamp never fully recovered from his injuries, and produced little during the last decade of his life. The artist died in 1997.
The exhibition, which is available to travel to other institutions, presents over thirty sculptures and works on paper from 1970-1985 from the artist’s estate and from private collections, and will be accompanied by a documentary catalogue. The Tweed Museum of Art acknowledges the assistance of Bill Shipley, who manages the artist’s estate, and Joseph Rickards, whose New York gallery exhibited Bohnenkamp’s work in recent years. A small catalogue, available through the Tweed Museum of Art, documents the exhibition.
The project is funded in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board from an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth Student Services Fees, and by Tweed Museum of Art members.