Eva Hesse


Hesse No Title Study For Or After Legs Of A Walking Ball Museum Wiesbaden Frei - © 2016 The Estate of Eva Hesse. Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Zurich. Photo: Museum Wiesbaden/Bernd Fickert
  • Eva Hesse
  • Untitled
  • 1965
  • ink and gouache on paper
  • Museum Wiesbaden - © 2016 The Estate of Eva Hesse. Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Zurich. Photo: Museum Wiesbaden/Bernd Fickert

During a year’s residency in Kettwig, Germany, in 1965, Eva Hesse made a series of mechanical drawings based on the enormous abandoned factory that she and her husband, sculptor Tom Doyle (b. 1928), used as a studio, even as it was being dismantled. Surrounded by broken machinery, Hesse rendered mechanical, suggestive forms in ink and color as she searched for her artistic voice. In these two studies human and machine parts coalesce in a schematic drawing as fantastical as it is clear. Blue, red, and yellow enliven careful drawings of machinery that also resembles phalluses, joints, and viscera—blurring the boundary between body and machine, drawing and diagram. While the drawings include more detail than the sculptural relief, they have in common the oval shape. When making these drawings, Hesse wrote to artist Sol LeWitt (1928–2007) about her doubts as an artist and her “clean, clear but crazy like machines … real nonsense” drawings. He responded, “Do more. More nonsensical more crazy more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever—make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ … Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make … your own world.” Hesse continued her work, transforming the mechanical detritus around her into constructs of her “own world.” Her time in Kettwig led her on a distinctive path, paved with “weird humor” and “real nonsense.

Amy Rahn

Biography of Eva Hesse

  • Born 1936 in Hamburg, Germany
  • Died 1970 in New York, New York
Eva Hesse is best known for using synthetic materials such as latex, fiberglass, and plastics in her post-Minimalist sculptures. In 1939 she and her family fled Nazi Germany and moved to New York. She first studied art in 1952 at the School of Industrial Art, then at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. She subsequently studied drawing at the Art Students League of New York in 1953 and enrolled at Cooper Union the following year. After that, she attended the School of Art at Yale University, graduating in 1959, then worked as a textile designer in New York. In the early 1960s she mostly produced drawings, which were first exhibited in 1961, and had her first solo show, at the Allan Stone Gallery, New York, in 1963. Hesse lived in Germany in 1964, working for the textile manufacturer Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt. During this time she traveled in Europe, experimented with materials, and began to work in relief and sculpture. Returning to New York, Hesse produced her first freestanding sculptures in synthetic materials. In 1968 she gained wider recognition thanks to her show Chain Polymers at Fischbach Gallery in New York. The following year she was also included in the exhibition Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern.