Eva Hesse

Tomorrow’s Apples (5 in White)


Eva Hesse 1936–1970
Enamel, gouache, varnish, cord and papier mâché on board
Object: 654 × 556 × 159 mm
Purchased 1979

Display caption

Hesse trained as a painter but, in the mid-1960s, experimented with making reliefs like this one, and began to use materials such as wool and string. This development was prompted by the difficulties she was having in translating her often complex drawings into painting. From making reliefs, Hesse naturally gravitated towards sculpture. This is one of Hesse’s earliest relief works and, like others of the time, is characterised by semi-organic shapes and trailing linear elements.

Gallery label, April 2009

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Eva Hesse 1965’ and ‘5 in WHITE’ on reverse
Painted concretion, enamel, gouache, varnish, cord and papier mâché mounted on chipboard, 25 3/4 × 21 7/8 × 6 1/4 (65.2 × 55.6 × 16)
Purchased through the Whitechapel Art Gallery from Donald Droll, acting for the artist's estate (Grant-in-Aid) 1979
Exh: Eva Hesse: Materialbilder und Zeichnungen, Studio für Graphik, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, August–October 1965 (6, as ‘Tomorrows Apples’, repr. catalogue cover); Eva Hesse: A Memorial Exhibition, Guggenheim Museum, New York, December 1972–February 1973, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, March–April 1973, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, May–July 1973, Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, September–November 1973, University Art Museum, Berkeley, December 1973-February 1974 (4, as ‘5 in White’, repr. 4th page, plate 4, n.p.); Eva Hesse 1936–70, Mayor Gallery, September–October 1974 (2, as ‘Five in White’ repr. opp. foreword and fig. 2, n.p.); Eva Hesse 1936–1970: Sculpture, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May–June 1979, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, June–August 1979 (2, repr. 14, n.p.); Eva Hesse 1936–1970 Skulpturen und Zeichnungen, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, August–September 1979 (2, repr. p.18)
Lit: Linda Shearer, catalogue foreword to Eva Hesse, Mayor Gallery 1974 (op. cit. as ‘5 in White’, n.p.); Lucy Lippard, ‘Eva Hesse’, New York 1976, pps.38, 42, n.9, p.215, repr. fig. 45, p.37, fig. 53, p.159, No. 6 in catalogue raisonné of sculpture; Andrea Hill, ‘Eva Hesse’, Artscribe, No. 18, July 1979, p.41; Tate Gallery 1978–80, p.51 repr.

This was one of a series of fourteen reliefs included in Eva Hesse's first major exhibition held at the Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf in 1965. In 1964, Hesse and her husband, the sculptor Tom Doyle, were given the chance of working for a time in Germany, under the patronage of the German industrialist and collector, Arnhard Scheidt. In June 1964, the two artists left New York and set up a studio in one of Scheidt's disused factories in Kettwig-am-Ruhr. They remained in Germany until September 1965 and it was during this period that Hesse, who had trained as a painter, began to work in three dimensions. (She had made only one sculpture previously, a soft tube of cloth and wire, used in an artists' performance work, in Woodstock in 1962).

Discussing the German reliefs in an interview with the American critic, Cindy Nemser (‘Art Talk’, New York 1975, p.207), Hesse admitted that she had always had difficulty in translating her often complex drawings into paint, ‘The ... transference to a large scale and in painting was always tedious. It was not natural ... so I started working in relief and with line. I would vary the cord lengths and widths and I would start with three dimensional boards and I would build them out with papier mâché or kinds of soft materials. I varied the materials a lot but the structure would always be built up with cords.’ The reliefs were constructed out of a variety of media, plaster and metal were also used; the Kettwig studio had previously been a weaving shed and, at Doyle's suggestion, Hesse began to work with some of the industrial materials that had been abandoned there. On 14 December she wrote to her friend Rosalind Goldman in New York (Lippard, p.28), that she was making a structure involving a mesh screen through which she had pushed and knotted plaster-soaked string. This early relief was either lost, destroyed or remained unfinished but Lippard notes that its structure and method of fabrication (the grid and the compulsive process of winding or wrapping) set the pattern for Hesse's mature work.

The fourteen reliefs shown at Düsseldorf were completed between March and July 1965 and the exhibition opened on 6 August. In a further letter to Rosalind Goldman, 4 May 1965 (repr. Lippard, fig. 44), Hesse sketched the first four reliefs and these, together with T.2383, were reproduced on the cover of the Düsseldorf catalogue. The catalogue appears to list the works chronologically, the order of the first eleven corresponding with the following list in the artist's diary; ‘March 1. Ringaround Arosie. April 2. Two Handled Orangekeyed utensil. April 3. An Ear in a Pond. May 4. Legs of a Walking Ball. May 5. (blank; later named Oomamaboomba.) June 6. Tomorrow's Apples. June 7.2 in 1. June 8. H+H. July 9. Cool Zone. July 10. Pink’ ... ‘July. C-Clamp Blues.’ The final three pieces were presumably made in July. Lippard suggests that the catalogue illustration shows the first five completed reliefs (although ‘Tomorrow's Apples’ is listed as 6 in both catalogue and diary). Hesse left all the reliefs in Germany when she returned to New York and where these were unmarked or unavailable for inspection, Lippard and Tom Doyle determined which was which after the artist's death. Their task was made more difficult because the catalogue describes all the works as materialbild (mixed media) and gives similar dimensions for each. Despite the fact that T02383 appears in the catalogue photograph, Lippard notes that it seems to be stylistically later than its placing in the catalogue would indicate. It arrived back from Germany with the title ‘5 in white’ (although Doyle did not remember Hesse using this alternative title) and was exhibited as such until the Whitechapel Retrospective in 1979. In the Whitechapel catalogue, T02383 is reproduced below an excerpt from the artist's notebook (Kettwig c. December 1964, coll. Allen Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio), a slightly misleading juxtaposition because the notebook lists the titles of drawings for possible inclusion in an earlier group exhibition, held at the Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf in December 1964. Some of the drawings’ titles, including ‘Tomorrow's Apples’ correspond with the titles of the reliefs Hesse exhibited at the same museum in 1965 but the drawings were not studies for the reliefs.

In her foreword to the Guggenheim catalogue (op. cit. n.p.), the American critic Linda Shearer emphasised the importance of taking into account Hesse's training as a painter and draftsman in any evaluation of her sculpture, pointing out that the German reliefs evolved naturally out of a preference for linear imagery and that the artist literally interpreted line in solid materials, extending two dimensional spatial concepts into three dimensions. Shortly before leaving for Germany, Hesse had been working on a series of collaged ink drawings, employing eccentric semi-organic shapes in deliberately awkward and off-balance compositions which she later compared to the reliefs, referring to both as deliberately absurdist, as ‘impossible space’, ‘impossible machines’ (Lippard p.24). In Kettwig her drawings became flatter, more simplified and less concerned with technique, increasingly suggesting sculptural forms. By early 1965 the dominant images had become a series of organic shapes with machine-like appendages isolated against white backgrounds. These drawings were the direct antecedents of the German reliefs but as Lippard points out (‘Eva Hesse: The Circle’, in From the Centre, p.156, New York 1976) the reliefs can also be read as three dimensional manifestations of the eccentric biomorphic shapes with which Hesse had always been obsessed, the ‘...irregular rectangles, parabolas, trailing linear ends, curving forms, the circles bound or bulged out of symmetry...’ which had appeared in her expressionist drawings from as early as 1960.

‘Ringaround Arosie’ (Düsseldorf 1) and ‘Tomorrow's Apples’ are the simplest of the six earliest reliefs but whereas ‘Ringaround Arosie’, consisting of two pink breast-like cord circles on a grey ground has overt sexual references, (the artist said it reminded her of a breast and penis, Lippard p.38), T02383 is less obviously anthropomorphic and it is stylistically closer to some of the later more abstract works in the series, e.g. ‘Cool Zone’ (Düsseldorf 9) and ‘Up the Down Road’ (Düsseldorf 12). ‘Tomorrow's Apples’ consists of a contoured white ground, divided by texture into three main areas, in the uppermost section the surface is only slightly raised, the application of what appears to be a piece of plaster-soaked cloth giving an even, grainy texture; the papier mâché process gives the surface of the centre section a fragmented, tortoise-shell appearance and the lower area, an indented mound, is irregularly textured. Five cord-wrapped rods, secured by being knotted through the chipboard support, arch over the flat central channel. These are brightly painted (from left to right, ultramarine, magenta, brick red, cerulean blue and acid green). Each colour is graded by being mixed with white, and intensifies towards the bottom of the cord. The colours act against the monochrome surface of the relief, so that the rods sometimes appear to float above the surface and the shadows they cast give an ambiguous depth to the work.

From 1957–59 Hesse attended the Yale School of Art and Architecture where she studied with Josef Albers. The hybrid German reliefs, described by Linda Shearer writing in the Mayor Gallery catalogue (op. cit.) as ‘Hesse's first truly original statements...notable for their unusually acid and vibrant colour’ have little relation to Albers' theories of colour and design but Shearer suggests that they reveal ‘a positive aspect’ of the effect of his teaching. Referring to Albers’ Bauhaus emphasis on the value of a true understanding of the properties of materials and the principles of construction, she writes, ‘I think we must attribute Hesse's initial use of materials such as papier mâché, cord, aluminium and wire to at least a subliminal recall of Albers’ classroom.' In July 1964 Hesse wrote in a notebook of her dissatisfaction with the way in which she was using colour, ‘... I end up with red, yellow, blue, green and I hate it’ and when she returned to New York in September 1965, she began to work in monochrome, her last coloured piece, ‘Untitled’ 1965 being completed in October of that year.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

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