Eva Hesse

Portrait of Eva Hesse by Herman Landshoff. Courtesy of Acquavella Galleries.
Portrait of Eva Hesse by Herman Landshoff. Courtesy of Acquavella Galleries.

Eva Hesse was born January 11, 1936 and only lived until May 29, 1970. Hesse 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 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.

 

Hesse, Eva: Vertiginous Detour Vertiginous Detour, sculpture made of acrylic and polyurethane on papier-mâché, rope, net, and ball, by Eva Hesse, 1966; in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.
Eva Hesse, "Vertiginous Detour" (1966) acrylic and polyurethane on papier-mâché, rope, net, and ball, collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

In 1961, Hesse was included in group exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum and at the John Heller Gallery, New York. Her first solo show of sculpture was presented at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, in 1965. Her only U.S. one-person show of sculpture in her lifetime was "Chain Polymers" at the Fischbach Gallery on W. 57th Street in New York in November 1968; her large piece Expanded Expansion showed at the Whitney Museum in the 1969 exhibit "Anti-Illusion: Process/Materials". There have been dozens of major posthumous exhibitions in the United States and Europe.

Eva Hesse: Untitled (Seven Poles), 1970 - resin and fibre-glass, polyethylene, aluminium wire (Musee National D'Art Moderne, Centre de Creation Industrielle in Paris)
Eva Hesse,"Untitled (Seven Poles)" (1970)  resin, fibre-glass, polyethylene and aluminium wire, Musee National D'Art Moderne, Centre de Creation Industrielle in Paris


She was associated with the mid-1960s post-minimal anti-form trend in sculpture. 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."

Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown
Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown


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.

Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown
Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown

Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown
Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown​

Eva Hesse, Title Unknown, (Date?) materials unknown, location unknown
Eva Hesse, Sans II, (1968) materials unknown, location unknown​

Eva Hesse, Unknown Title, (date?) materials unknown, location unknown
Eva Hesse, Unknown Title, (date?) materials unknown, location unknown​