I wrote these posts on Hesse well before I conceived Mothers of Invention as a series, but the artist so fits the project that I decided to insert the posts here.
Mothers of Invention: Eva Hesse
Three separate posts are brought together here. Scroll to see them all
Eve Hesse: SculptureRetrospective at the Jewish Museum, May 12-September 17, 2006
Originally posted November 19, 2006
New York is enjoying an extended minimal moment this fall. Although it’s been over half a century since reductive work made its first appearance, Minimalism’s "Greatest Hits" (and some current favorites) are playing all over town. Is there something in the ether that has provoked a spate of related shows at the same time? Or, as in fashion, is it simply a cycle whose time has come round again? Whatever the reason, there was and is a lot to see—and this is not an oxymoron. Eva Hesse’s long-overdue retrospective, Eva Hesse: Sculpture, curated by Elizabeth Sussman and installed at the Jewish Museum seems to have been the catalyst.
Installation of Eva Hesse: Sculpture at the Jewish Museum, New York City, May 12-September 17, 2006
The Jewish Museum, located on Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, is a lovely turn-of-the-last-century structure that was once a private home, but it's no Whitney. The exhibition is installed in one large U-shaped gallery on the ground floor, with a low ceiling. Still, this was the institution that made a commitment to showing Hesse’s oeuvre after the Whitney backed out a few years ago. I was grateful to see this work in one place. As an art student I remember seeing Hesse’s work around town and periodically after that at MoMA until the work’s fragility required it to be archivally sequestered. Here, it’s everything I remember and more.
Eva Hesse: Repetition Nineteen III, cast resin, 1968
As you well know, Hesse used non-beautiful materials—modest conventional stuff like twine and rope; industrial stuff like fiberglass; and at-the-time archivally untried stuff, like latex and resins—to effect her reductive and repetitive, and largely translucent, forms. Her great works are here: the 19 cast fiberglass vessels of Repetition Nineteen III (1968) in curatorially organized disarray; the protuberant grid of Schema (1967-1968); the multiple box-like segments of Sans II (1968); the stuffed latex and canvas panels of Aught (1968); the wall-like curtain of Expanded Expansion (1968); the latex-dipped sheets of Contingent (1969) and more. Since there was no photography allowed in the gallery, I have pulled images from the Internet.
Aught, stuffed latex and canvas, 1968
Sans II, cast resin, 1968, shown in installation (segments have gone to various institutions and private collectors)
Schema, cast latex with movable elements,1967-1968
The hemispherical elements look as if they were cast from a handball. Their placement is ordered but not perfect, and each element rests unattached on the flat latex surface. This is a floor sculpture; you can see it in the installation picture above
Hesse standing in front of Expanded Expansion in 1968 or sometime in the late 60s, above; a more recent shot of the work, which has yellowed (and become brittle) over time
Eva Hesse in her studio in Kettwig an der Ruhr, near Dusseldorf, Germany, in in 1964-65
While the work has aged, Hesse has not. She will always be pictured as a round-faced woman in her early 30s. The exhibition includes black-and-white--and voiceless--Super-8 footage from that time showing her working in her studio. Hesse never lived long enough to grow old. Born in 1936 in Hamburg, she died of a brain tumor in New York in 1970 at the age of 34, so it comes as something of a shock to realize she would have been 70 this year. (Update: That was in 2006. This year, in 2021, she would have been 85.)
Eva Hesse: Test PiecesAt Hauser & Wirth, New York City, March 16-April 24, 2010
Originally posted May 19, 2010
Eve Hesse at Hauser & Wirth
Here in the anteroom, two sculptures in papier maché and a small wall piece in Sculpmetal
The focus of this show consisted of so-called "test pieces"—small, dimensional sketches created in papier caché, which is paper that is pressed and adhered by tape or glue. Such work by a less iconic artist would never have seen the light of day. But because it is Hesse, we had the opportunity to peek into her process and thinking. Some of the folded forms and concave shapes looked as if they might have been molded over a body, like the hollow of a back or the curve of a shoulder; others, as if the artist was simply doing what her hands and the material allowed. Extraordinarily fragile now (they were made in 1969), they suggest what might have been. The works were displayed on a large table that took up the entire back gallery.
The anteroom held two sculptures and a small wall piece. These sculptures, in papier maché, and the wall piece, in Sculpmetal, are more recognizably Hessian.
Above, Inside II and Inside I, both 1967; acrylic, papier maché, sawdust, wood, cord and metal
Inside views of the respective works below
From the anteroom, above, we can look into the back gallery, below, where the test pieces were displayed on a large table
Above and below, opposite views of the papier caché sculptures on the exhibition plinth. The works were scattered on a table the way they might have been in the artist's studio
Eve Hesse: StudioworkAt the the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, July 20-October 10, 2011
Plus images from other venues
Originally posted September 8, 2011
BOSTON--I have been an admirer of Eva Hesse's work for decades. Early on, I'd see it in galleries, then in museums, and then less so in museums. MoMA, for instance, used to dispay Repetition Nineteen III, the fiberglass "buckets," transcendent in their honey-toned luminosity, and then one day I realized the work was no longer out. Then it was back. I'm not sure if it's that there is better conservation available, or simply an institutional acquiencense to entropy, but lately there seems to be more of Hesse's work on view.So it is with the exhibition Studiowork at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. It's an institutional space with mostly intimately scaled objects: papier caché pieces on a large plinth, and smaller pieces displayed in vitrines. The ICA doesn't allow photography, and its website doesn't have any installation shots, so I've pulled shamelessly from the web to show you some of what I saw.
Studiowork, 1968; Fiberglass, polyester resin, plastic, app 9 x 9 x 9 inches*
Above and below: Two installation shots of the same show at its previous venue, the UC Berkley Art Museum. It's curated by Briony Fer, an art historian and Hesse scholar, and Barry Rosen, director of the Eva Hesse estate
Studiowork, 1968; latex, cheesecloth, plastic, metal, app. 60 inches high**
Hesse in her studio (New York?), late 60s, early 70s. Image from the Internet
Studiowork, 1966; paint, wood, papier mâché, rubber, and metal***
Above: Studiowork, 1969; cheesecloth and adhesive
Below: Another view of the papier caché sculptures at the ICA****
Above and below:
Similar work from the Hauser & Wirth show in New York City last year
Here you get a better sense of the way the objects were laid out on a large table as if they might have been place by Hesse herself while she was working in her studio. At least that's the concept. JM photos
Above: Studiowork, late 1960s
I got this image from a review of the show by Mark Faverman on the online Berkshire Fine Arts
Those cast latex (and maybe latex with graphite?) pieces might have led to the work below: Sequel, 1967-68; latex, pigment and cheesecloth; sheet 30 x 32 inches; each element app. 2 5/8 inches in diameter. I photographed this work at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009, where it is part of the permanent collection
Studiowork, 1970; latex, cotton, and wire*****
This sculpture was shown inside a vitrine. It's kind of intestinal and yet its linearity makes it very much like drawing, especially when shadows complicate the work as shown here. Though it's dated four years after the work below, you can see the connections
Below: Hang Up, 1966; mixed media with cloth, wood, acrylic, cord, steel tube. Photographed by me at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. JM photo