Eva Hesse
Addendum 1967

Artwork details

Eva Hesse 1936–1970
Date 1967
Medium Papier mâché, wood and cord
Dimensions Object: 124 x 3029 x 206 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1979


Addendum is a large sculptural wall installation by the German-born American artist Eva Hesse. Seventeen light grey papier mâché hemispheres are systematically arranged at increasing intervals on a wooden bar coated in the same material. Long pieces of painted rope issue from the centre of each hemisphere and fall to the ground, coiling in unpredictable loops. The horizontal, organised rhythm of the bar and hemispheres contrasts with the vertical cascade of the cords. The hemispheres are textured and the paint on them has become cracked and discoloured. Due to the contrast between the organic-looking hemispheres and the manufactured rope, the sculpture seems to represent a mixture of natural and manmade forms. The size and height of the sculpture, coupled with the chaotic coils entering the viewing space, give this sculpture an imposing presence.

Addendum was made in 1967, when the artist was living and working in a studio loft at 134 Bowery, New York. The textured, uneven surfaces of the bar and hemispheres reveal the addition of multiple layers of pulp. No attempt has been made to smooth these over or hide the process of making, and this becomes an important part of the composition. This practice of revealing the handmade elements of the work is a feature of Hesse’s practice (see, for instance, Sans III 1969, Galerie Hauser and Wirth, Zurich).

An undated work on paper named Untitled (Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, reproduced in Sussman 2002, p.33) could suggest a genesis for Addendum. This typed and handwritten list features words and their definitions, including ‘Addendum – A thing added or to be added’. Above these words Hesse has drawn what looks like a stylised version of Addendum. Curator Elizabeth Sussman has suggested that these definitions may have come from a thesaurus Hesse had been given by her friend, the artist Mel Bochner (Sussman 2002, p.32). However, in 1967 Hesse has stated that ‘the title of this work is Addendum, a thing added or to be added. A title is after the fact. It is titled only because that is preferred to untitled. Explanations are also after the fact. The work exists only for itself. The work must contain its own import’ (quoted in The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hesse-addendum-t02394/text-catalogue-entry, accessed 20 May 2016).

Addendum was created for the Art in Series exhibition held at Finch College, New York, which opened in November 1967. Sussman has described how Hesse’s experimentation with seriality, begun in 1965, was ‘pushed’ by Addendum, which was exhibited alongside ‘rigorously serial works’ by artists such as Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd and Robert Smithson (Sussman 2002, p.208). In 1967 Hesse emphasised the mathematical genesis of this work: ‘the structure is five inches high, nine feet eleven inches long, and six inches deep. A series of seventeen, five inch diameter semi-spheres are placed at increased intervals. The interval progression is as follows: 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8, 1 1/8, 1 3/8, 1 5/8, 1 7/8 etc.’ (Quoted in Scott Rothkopf, ‘Seriality and Addendum’, in Sussman 2002, pp.207–8, p.208.)

Unusually, Hesse completed a large-scale drawing for Addendum in 1967 (private collection), most likely in order to help scale up the precise measurements required. She also stressed the inherent disorder in Addendum in 1967: ‘the cord opposes the regularity. When it reaches the floor it curls and sits irregularly. The juxtaposition and actual connecting cord realises the contradiction of the rational series of semi-spheres and irrational flow of lines on the floor. Series, serial, serial art, is another way of repeating absurdity’ (quoted in Sussman 2002, p.27). Hesse’s dichotomous engagement with order and delight in the ‘absurdity’ of serial art sets her apart from her colleagues, especially Judd.

Curator Scott Rothkopf has noted that after Addendum, Hesse ‘retreated from this brand of mathematically predetermined seriality, making Addendum not only her greatest statement in this mode, but her last’ (Rothkopf 2002, pp.207–8, p.208). From 1965 Hesse’s sculptures and works on paper became increasingly monochrome and form was allowed to predominate (see, for instance, Untitled 1967, Tate T04151). Hesse has been widely linked with minimalism, as well as to the work of Louise Bourgeois in her use of organic handmade forms.

Further reading
Renate Puvogel, ‘Eva Hesse: New Ground in Sculpture’, Forum International, vol.4, no.17, March–April 1993, reproduced p.86.
Elizabeth Sussman (ed.), Eva Hesse, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New Haven 2002, reproduced pp.27 and 210–11.
Vanessa Corby, Eva Hesse: Longing, Belonging and Displacement, London 2010, reproduced p.107.

Jo Kear
May 2016

Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.