Eva Hesse & ‘the total absurdity of life’

Guardian critic Jonathan Jones has written an interesting piece called: Art criticism and the pleasure principle. His text made me think about art that I really love (beyond intellectualism…?)
Today I will present you for one of my absolute favorite artists:
Don’t ask what it means or what it refers to. Don’t ask what the work is. Rather, see what the work does
Eva Hesse: Right After (1969)

Eva Hesse was born in Hamburg in 1936 into a Jewish family. She was sent with her sister on a Kindertransport to Holland to flee the Nazis in 1938. Their parents joined them and they moved first to London, and then to New York in 1939. When Eva was nine, her parents separated and her father remarried. A few months later her mother, who had a history of depression, committed suicide by throwing herself from a window.

In her last and very productive years Hesse experimented with materials such as latex and fibreglass, which were fairly new to the art scene. Her feel for them and her command of composition were breathtaking. Several of these works have either disintegrated or are so fragile that extended display would damage them irreparably.

Hesse readily absorbed the influences of Surrealism, Conceptualism and Minimalism, always filtering them though her own distinctive sensibility to produce a unique and highly individualistic body of work.

Lucy Lippard: Hesse took exactly what she needed from the art around her, transformed it, and gave it back to the art world

Hesse’s art evokes the tension between opposites: the geometric and the organic, the serial and the unique, chaos and order. And yet her work consistently challenges the very idea of contraries. Her early ink drawings involve wash after wash, transposing the layering process from painting to drawing. The later sculptural works often hang like paintings, and the layers of material evoke both the methods and the touch of the painter.

Of course we can theorize about Hesse, but it also possible to meet her work in a pure sensual way. All you have to do is let yourself float into her magical world –

Eva Hesse: No Title (1969)

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Enjoyed this, as well as being introduced to Hesse. Thank you. “Right After” gives me a curious feeling: one of being suspended between this and that; as if the experience is not quite over, but not quite here. A being entangled and being threadbare. Must be those contraries you mentioned 🙂 Thanks again.

  2. yellowcosmo says:

    I admire Eva Hesse’s work as well. Unlike many artists whose works were mostly bounded in theories, she was the rare minimalist that really responded to material, which allowed her sensitivity to come through. To me, that’s why her work has a timeless quality.

  3. dianajhale says:

    I agree that Eva Hesse’s work has a timeless feel. There was an exhibition in London last year at Camden Arts Centre which included tiny pieces from her studio which show exquisite responses to materials. Here is a link (actually it was longer ago than I thought but it has stayed in my mind!):

    1. Sigrun says:

      Beautiful! Thank you!

  4. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Yes, touch. That’s very fine. These pieces are luminous with touch. Touch in many dimensions. Touch as light. Touch as dance. Touch as erotic relationship to clay. Touch as history. Fascinating. Beautiful. Inspiring. Thanks.

  5. c m wilson says:

    I had forgotten about her until I saw your post. Thank you for reintroducing me!

    1. Sigrun says:

      Yes – great art, isn’t it?!

  6. The word “luminous” in Harold’s comment is apt. These works also look ephemeral which, to me makes me look harder, as if they might vanish. It is a pleasure to find your blog–thanks Karen H.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you karen – and welcome!

  7. Gerry says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Eva Hesse’s work. I came here after watching ‘Holocaust – A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz’, a powerful and sensitive memorial to those murdered in Auschwitz. The beauty of music in a place of terror. Total absurdity. It’s available on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0078v1v/Holocaust_A_Music_Memorial_Film_from_Auschwitz/
    Extract here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miLV0o4AhE4

  8. What’s up, of course this post is really good and I have learned lot of things from it about blogging. thanks.

    1. Sigrun says:

      great, my pleasure!

  9. sheiladerosa says:

    Thank you for following me and for reminding me about Eva Hesse, I have always found so much to appreciate in her work. I was really pleased that you liked my piece about Bill Viola.

  10. bluebrightly says:

    She’s one of my favorites…I was lucky enough to see some of her late sculpture in shows in NY in the early 70’s, when I was an art student. It was so encouraging to see what she was doing amidst all the hard-edged sculpture and painting (much of which I did like) done by men at the time. I’m enjoying scrolling through your older posts – I’ll have to come back from time to time – a treat. Thank you for expressing your sensibility so well here.

    1. Sigrun says:

      How wonderful that this post has found a reader also in 2018! And I agree – Hesse was such an exceptional artist!

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