Artist biography

American sculptor and painter of German birth. She arrived in New York in 1939. From 1954 to 1957 she studied at Cooper Union in New York and in 1959 at Yale University School of Art in New Haven, CT, under Josef Albers. Her individual style first appeared in drawings shown in the early 1960s, for example at her first one-woman exhibition at Allan Stone Gallery in New York (1963). Hesse considered herself a painter until 1965, when, during a year in Germany, she constructed and exhibited 14 papier-mâché reliefs, with cord-wrapped wires embedded, projecting or dangling from them, at the Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf; among these exhibited works was Tomorrow's Apples (5 in White) (1965; London, Tate). Hesse's friends included Sol LeWitt, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt (b 1938), Mel Bochner (b 1940) and Dan Graham.

In the years before her early death Hesse's sculpture grew in scale and daring from easel-sized reliefs to Expanded Expansion (1969; New York, Guggenheim), whose latex-covered cheesecloth ‘curtains', draped between 16 plexiglass poles (h. 3.1 m), are extendable laterally, and Right After (1969; Milwaukee, WI, A. Mus.), whose light-filled fibreglass strands are suspended irregularly in space, usually up to c. 5 m wide. Her mature sculpture abounds in contradictions: chaos and order, organic and geometric, absurd and tragic. Hesse was one of the first and most influential artists to question the austere, immobile exactitude of serial Minimalism and imbue it with a capacity to move, change and vary from the norm like a living being.

Oberlin Coll., OH, Allen Mem. A. Mus., Eva Hesse Archv [diaries, notebooks, sketches, correspondence]


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