It’s Day 151 and today’s artist was mainly known for her sculptures, but I really enjoy her paintings as well! Join me in celebrating the beautiful Eva Hesse today. Reading her story made me sad, but honoring her today helped. On another note, last night’s improv show was wonderful. Thanks to all who came out to enjoy it. I’m sad we won’t be performing until the fall, so hopefully the classes I take throughout the summer keep me sane until then!
Eva Hesse (January 11, 1936 – May 29, 1970), was a Jewish German-born American sculptor, known for her pioneering work in materials such as latex, fiberglass, and plastics.
Hesse was born into a family of observant Jews in Hamburg, Germany. When Hesse
was two years old in December 1938, her parents, hoping to flee from Nazi Germany, sent Eva and her older sister; Helen Hesse Charash, to the Netherlands via Kindertransport. After almost six months of separation, the reunited family moved to England and then, in 1939, emigrated to New York City, where they settled into Manhattan’s Washington Heights. In 1944 Hesse’s parents separated, her father remarried in 1945 and her mother committed suicide in 1946.
After graduating from New York’s School of Industrial Art in 1952, Hesse studied at New York’s Pratt Institute (1952–1953) and Cooper Union (1954–1957), then at the Yale School of Art and Architecture (1957–1959), where she studied under Josef Albers and received a B.F.A. Upon returning to New York she made friends with many young artists. In 1961, she met and married sculptor Tom Doyle. In August 1962, Eva Hesse and Tom Doyle participated in an Allan Kaprow Happening at the Art Students League of New York in Woodstock, New York. There Hesse made her first three-dimensional piece: a costume for the Happening. In 1963, Eva Hesse had a one-person show of works on paper at the Allan Stone Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side.
Hesse and Doyle—whose marriage was coming apart— lived and worked in an abandoned textile
mill in the Ruhr region of Germany for about a year during 1964–1965. Their studio was set up in a disused part of the industrialist and collector Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt’s textile factory in Kettwig-on-the-Ruhr near Essen.
The building still contained machine parts, tools and materials from its previous use and the angular forms of these disused machines and tools served as inspiration for Hesse’s mechanical drawings and paintings. Hesse was not happy to be back in Germany, but began sculpting with materials that had been left behind in the abandoned factory: first relief sculptures made of cloth-covered cord, electrical wire, and masonite, with playful titles like Eighter from Decatur and Oomamaboomba. Returning to New York City in 1965, she began working in the materials that would become characteristic of her work: latex, fiberglass, and plastics.
Eva Hesse had an interest in painting in the earlier stages of her career, as well in drawing, as evinced by her numerous workbooks. In
November 1968 Hesse exhibited her large-scale sculptures at the Fischbach Gallery in New York. This exhibition was titled Chain Polymers and was Hesse’s only solo sculpture exhibition during her lifetime. The exhibition was pivotal in Hesse’s career, securing her reputation at the time.
She was associated with the mid-1960s postminimal anti-form trend in sculpture, participating in New York exhibits such as “Eccentric Abstraction” and “Abstract Inflationism and Stuffed Expressionism” (both 1966). In September 1968, Eva Hesse began teaching at the School of Visual Arts.
Except for fiberglass, most of her favored materials age badly, so much of her work presents conservators with an enormous challenge. Arthur Danto, writing of the Jewish Museum’s 2006 retrospective, refers to “the discolorations, the slackness in the membrane-like latex, the palpable aging of the material… Yet, somehow the work does not feel tragic. Instead it is full of life, of eros, even of comedy… Each piece in the show vibrates with originality and mischief.”
From 1968 to 1970, Hesse taught at the School of Visual Arts, New York. In 1969, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her death in 1970,
after three operations within a year, at age 34 ended a career spanning only ten years.
Her art is often viewed in light of all the painful struggles of her life including escaping the Nazis, her parents’ divorce, the suicide of her mother when she was ten, her failed marriage and the death of her father. Danto describes her as “cop[ing] with emotional chaos by reinventing sculpture through aesthetic insubordination, playing with worthless material amid the industrial ruins of a defeated nation that, only two decades earlier, would have murdered her without a second thought.” She also always felt she was fighting for recognition in a male dominated art world.
Hesse is one of a few artists who led the move from Minimalism to Postminimalism. Danto distinguishes it from minimalism by its “mirth and jokiness” and “unmistakable whiff of eroticism”, its “nonmechanical repetition”. She was influenced by, and in turn influenced, many famous artists of the 1960s through today. For many artists and friends who knew her, Eva Hesse was so charismatic that her spirit remains simply unforgettable to this day.
Biography is from wikipedia.
My life and art have not been separated. They have been together. (Eva Hesse)
I hope you enjoy my piece today! It was a different experience than I thought I would have painting it. I really enjoyed using a subdued color palette with the exception of the red and lime green. I will see you tomorrow on Day 152. Best, Linda