Eva Hesse in her studio in 1965.
January 11, 1936|
|Died||May 29, 1970
New York City, U.S.
|Training||Yale University, studied with Josef Albers at Yale, Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, Art Students League of New York|
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.
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, including at The Guggenheim Museum (1972, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2002), The Drawing Center in New York (2006) and the Jewish Museum of New York (2006). In Europe, Eva Hesse had a posthumous exhibition in 2010 at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona.
According to the Summer 1979 issue of Artforum, there were three separate iterations of an Eva Hesse retrospective, entitled Eva Hesse: Sculpture. These exhibitions took place at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London from May 4 - June 17, 1979; the Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller in Otterlo from June 30 - August 5, 1979; and the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover from August 17 - September 23, 1979. One artwork featured in the exhibition was Aught, four double sheets of laytex stuffed with polyethylene. Each are 78 x 40 inches.
- Art Talk: Conversations with Barbara Hepworth, Sonia Delaunay, Louise Nevelson, Lee Krasner, Alice Neel, Grace Hartigan, Marisol, Eva Hesse, Lila Katzen, Eleanor Antin, Audrey Flack, Nancy Grossman. 1975 New York; Charles Scribner's Sons. 201-224pps. Reprinted Art Talk: Conversations: Conversations with 15 Women Artists. 1995 IconEditions, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 173-199pps.
- Corby, Vanessa. Eva Hesse: Longing, Belonging, and Displacement (I.B. Tauris, 2010) 250 pages; focus on drawings from 1960–61
- Eva Hesse. 1976 New York; New York University Press / 1992 Da Capo Press, Inc. Lucy R. Lippard. illus. Trade Paper. 251p.
- Eva Hesse Sculpture. 1992 Timken Publishers, Inc. Bill Barrette. illus. Trade Paper. 274p.
- Eva Hesse Paintings, 1960–1964. 1992 Robert Miller Gallery. Max Kozloff. Edited by John Cheim and Nathan Kernan. illus. Trade Cloth. 58p.
- Four Artists: Robert Ryman, Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, Susan Rothenberg. Michael Blackwood Productions, Inc. Color VHS 45 min.
- Busch, Julia M., A decade of sculpture: the 1960s (The Art Alliance Press: Philadelphia; Associated University Presses: London, 1974) ISBN 0-87982-007-1
- Willson, William S., ""Eva Hesse: On the Threshold of Illusions", in :Inside the Visible edited by Catherine de Zegher, MIT Press, 1996.
- de Zegher, Catherine (ed.), Eva Hesse Drawing. NY/New Haven: The Drawing Center/Yale University Press, 2005. (Including essays by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Briony Fer, Mignon Nixon, Bracha Ettinger). ISBN 0-300-11618-7
- Griselda Pollock with Vanessa Corby (eds.), Encountering Eva Hesse. London and Munich: Prestel, 2006.
- Milne, Drew (2008). "Eva Hesse". Art without Art: Selected Writing from the World of Blunt Edge. Edited by Marcus Reichert. London: Ziggurat Books. pp. 55–60. ISBN 9780954665661.
- SFMOMA exhibit notes, 2002 for Hamburg; Danto 2006, p.32 for family being observant Jews.
- Vanessa Corby, ''Eva Hesse: Longing, Belonging and Displacement'', pp. 133-137. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- Lippard 1992, p. 6 and in the Chronology: THE ARTIST'S LIFE, p. 218.
- Danto 2006, p.32.
- Lippard 1992, p. 6.
- Lippard 1992, p.218
- SFMOMA exhibit notes, 2002.
- Lippard 1992, p. 19.
- Lippard 1992, p. 21, 218.
- Lippard 1992, p. 219
- "Repetition Nineteen III". Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- Harriet Schoenholz Bee; Cassandra Heliczer (2005). MoMA Highlights. New York: Museum of Modern Art. p. 271. ISBN 978-0870704901.
- Lippard 1992, p. 26
- Eva Hesse: Transformations — The Sojourn in Germany 1964/65, 12 June – 24 July 2004 Hauser & Wirth, Zürich.
- Eva Hesse 1965, 30 January – 9 March 2013 Hauser & Wirth, London.
- Lippard 1992, p. 24.
- Danto, 2006, p.33.
- Sussman and Wasserman, Preface
- Lippard 1992, p.220
- Danto, 2006, p.30–31.
- Eva Hesse Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
- Danto, 2006, p.30.
- Lippard 1992, p. 5, 128–129, 138, 180, 182.
- [Artforum, Summer 1979. Page 6]
- Arthur C. Danto, "All About Eva", The Nation, July 17/24, 2006, p. 30–34. Posted online June 28, 2006.
- Lucy R. Lippard, EVA HESSE. 1992 Da Capo Press, Inc. illus. Trade Paper. 251p.
- SFMOMA | Exhibitions | Exhibition Overview | Eva Hesse (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art February 2, 2002 — May 19, 2002 exhibition). Accessed online 19 September 2006.
- Sussman, Elisabeth (2006). Eva Hesse Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Artforum, Summer 1979. Page 6.
- Quotations related to Eva Hesse at Wikiquote
- Entry for Eva Hesse on the Union List of Artist Names
- Eva Hesse on Artcyclopedia
- Eva Hesse: Random Notes Essay by Leslie Dick published in X-TRA
- oneroom.org, Source with some more references
- Eva Hesse Chronology
- Eva Hesse: Sculpture Exhibition (2006) at The Jewish Museum (New York)