In keeping with her desire to deconstruct formal concerns, from 1980-1990 Thea made constructed paintings, which, according to John Yau “ burst out of the frame to offer a novel conception of space that not only breached traditional boundaries of the canvas, but extended the ongoing American and European Modernist beginnings. Here, Thea forces the immediate collapse of painting and sculpture through her use of the frame…Rather than forming a decorative border around a painting, the frame is made to function both as a scaffold and a shallow container…by dislodging the frame from its historical usage, the artist is able to transform it into a kind of microscope through which she can examine the various social dynamics informing theway we look at painting.”
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From a group show of one hundred works on paper, Peter Schjeldahl, in The New York Times, Sunday, March 16, 1980, chose as the single illustration in his review, her collage. “ Helen I, by Carolee Thea is a big, complex tilted paper cruciform…mounted directly on the wall includes a line drawing that extends onto the wall surface