Eva Hesse



Not on display

Eva Hesse 1936–1970
Ink and gouache on paper
Support: 499 × 649 mm
frame: 695 × 836 × 43 mm
Purchased 1986

Display caption

Hesse made drawings throughout her career. During 1964–1965 she was based in Germany as the guest of a textile manufacturer and collector who provided her with a studio space above his textile factory. Many of her drawings from this period, including this one, combine imagery which is principally abstract and organic with details that suggest machine parts and elements drawn from the factory environment.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Eva Hesse 1936-1970

T04154 Untitled 1965

Coloured inks, gouache, black crayon and collage on paper 496 x 647 (19 1/4 x 25 1/2); stamped ‘Cornelius | Hennig Düsseldorf
Inscribed ‘EHesse 1965' b.r.
Purchased from Xavier Fourcade Inc., New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov: Mrs Helen Charash, the artist's sister 1970; Xavier Fourcade Inc. 1985
Exh: Eva Hesse 1936-70, An Exhibition of Sculpture and Drawings, Mayor Gallery, Sept.-Oct. 1974 (24, repr.); Eva Hesse 1936-1970 A Retrospective of Works on Paper, Mayor Gallery, May-June 1979, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, June-Aug. 1979 (16, repr.); Eva Hesse 1936-1970 Skulpturen und Zeichnungen, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, Aug.-Sept. 1979 (55, repr.); Eva Hesse: A Retrospective of the Drawings, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, April-May 1982, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Sept.-Nov. 1982, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Nov. 1982-Jan. 1983, Grey Art Gallery and Study Centre, New York University, Jan.-Feb. 1983, Baltimore Museum of Art, March-April 1983, Des Moines Art Centre, Iowa, May-July 1984, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Arizona, Aug.-Sept. 1984, Portland Center for The Visual Arts, Oregon, Oct-Dec 1984, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, Feb.-Mar. 1985 (47, repr.); Eva Hesse, The Early Drawings and Selected Sculpture, Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts, Nov.-Dec. 1985 (21)
Lit: Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse, New York 1976, pp.25-47, fig.38; Ellen H. Johnson, ‘Drawing in Eva Hesse's Work', in Eva Hesse: A Retrospective of the Drawings, exh. cat., Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio 1982, pp.9-26; Susan L. Stoops, ‘Eva Hesse - The Early Drawings' in Eva Hesse, The Early Drawings and Selected Sculpture, exh. cat., Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts 1985, [p.12]

Eva Hesse made drawings throughout her career and T04154 dates from 1965 when Hesse and her husband, the sculptor Tom Doyle, were working in Germany. They lived in Germany from June 1964 to August 1965 (apart from brief trips to Switzerland, Mallorca, Italy and the Netherlands) as guests of the textile manufacturer and collector, F. Arnhard Scheidt, who provided studio space above one of his factories in Kettwig-am-Ruhr (see Lippard 1976, pp.24-5). It was during this time that Hesse made her first works in three dimensions, including the Tate's relief, ‘Tomorrow's Apples (5 in white)' T02383 (see Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1978-80, 1982, pp.99-102) and also a number of important drawings.

Referring to the German drawings, Ellen Johnson writes of the influence on their imagery of ‘the machine parts that Doyle kept bringing up to their loft studio above a factory that was being disassembled by their patron. Hesse chose to work in a small office in the centre of a vast space where Doyle made good use of the rich supply of materials in his sculpture'. Johnson quotes part of a letter to Sol LeWitt, written in March 1965, where Hesse reports having made many drawings:

There have been a few stages. First kind of what was in past - free, crazy forms - well done and so on. They had wild space, not constant, fluctuating and variety of forms etc... .

2nd stage - contained forms somewhat harder, often in boxes and forms become machine line...

3rd stage - Drawings - clean, clear - but crazy line machines, forms larger, bolder, articulately described so that it is weird - they become real nonsense (Johnson 1982, pp.13-14).

Ellen Johnson notes in her catalogue introduction that in assigning consecutive catalogue numbers to all the drawings in the exhibition she has ‘tried to establish within each year what seems to have been a likely sequence', but adds that ‘this order is not, and could never be definitive or "accurate"'.

The German works listed as corresponding to Hesse's ‘first stage' date from 1964 and consist of floating fragmented forms, looser versions of some of those made in 1963 (compare figs 26 and 27 with 32 and 33 in the Allen Memorial Art Museum exhibition catalogue). These were followed by the ‘contained and somewhat harder, machine like forms' (Johnson's paraphrase of Hesse's description p.14) which Johnson relates to Léger's ‘cylinder forms' (whose work Hesse mentions liking in her ‘travel journal from France and Switzerland, early fall of 1964' (Johnson 1982 p.14)). The machine imagery is compared by Johnson with the erotic machines of Picabia and Duchamp, ‘both of whose work she [Hesse] would have encountered at Yale, if not before'. Hesse saw objects and drawings by Duchamp in Bern in 1964. The exhibition combined works by Duchamp, Kandinsky, Malevich, Albers and Tom Doyle (see Johnson 1982, Notes 13, p.26) and Hesse also met Jean Tinguely at the opening in October 1964. Johnson suggests that, following the Bern exhibition, Hesse's transition from painting to sculpture began with her drawings of individual machine-inspired images, pipes, pistons, horses, nozzles, couplings, gears, gaskets, etc. Having drawn these, Hesse would select individual figures to cut out (see Johnson 1982, figs 6 and 7). These were then traced and the tracings used as collage elements in T04154 (repr. Johnson 1982, no.47) and in a series of closely related drawings (nos 43, 44, 45, 46 and 48). Johnson has identified the top cut-out shape in fig.7 as the source of the traced element that appears to the left of centre in T04154 (there is a similar link between fig.7 and no.46, the work illustrated that relates most closely to T04154).

Johnson draws parallels with Doyle's sculpture of the period, illustrating a constructed sculpture by him of 1964 (fig.5 ‘Lunula,' Schulze-Felinghausen painted steel and wood). She also suggests a connection with the hard-edged forms of Konrad Klapheck (Hesse saw his work in the 1964 Documenta) and particularly with Arshile Gorky. Hesse visited an exhibition of Gorky's drawings, Arshile Gorky, Zeichnungen at the Folkwang Museum in Essen in November 1964. Johnson cites an entry in Hesse's diary dated 8 November (see no.15) and comments, ‘Like Gorky's plows, Hesse's Machines become body parts' (p.17; see also Lippard 1976,’Chronology', p.219). These rather complex drawings, with their multitude of interconnected machine-like elements, preceded the cleaner, clearer, ‘bolder' imagery of Hesse's ‘3rd stage' (Johnson 1982, p.14 and, for example, T04153).

Lippard writes of the drawings made at this time (citing and illustrating as examples T04153 and T04154) that early in 1965 (around February), Hesse began to isolate her ‘machine images' ‘so that their singleness began to suggest sculpture and to inspire more interest and confidence in the possibility of making reliefs'. A number of smaller drawings were followed or accompanied by

many larger drawings, executed on good paper in pen and ink, sometimes with different coloured inks on one drawing and even on one single contour line, sometimes a striped or patterned area, less frequently a light wash over one or another delineated area ... The grounds were almost always white, with all the energy concentrated in the image itself. The shapes are organic in source, humorously combined with machine appurtenances, joints, nozzles, rims, cords. They demonstrate an impressive combination of loose and fluid, obviously automatic or free forms with a line that is absolutely straightforward and devoid of modulations. It is the line that is mechanical rather than the image, but the punning play between the two, and between hard and soft, is at the core of the drawings. In the early ones there are images that recall mouths, chairs, lamps, shoes, a vacuum cleaner...

There are penis-like jut-outs that recall the shapes in Doyle's sculpture, but softened into another substance. Many of the organic shapes appear to be ‘bound' by line into ‘sausage' forms, anticipating the next year's sculpture. Other images also suggest later work: a ‘ball and chain,' pendulums, balloons, an undisguised penis with thorns, tendrils drawn off other shapes, a ubiquitous dotted line ... Although the forms are single, and vignetted, they are highly active. Things are coming out of things, pushing and nudging their other parts. One drawing [?T04154] looks like a detailed study from some fantastic pipe joint.

In the spring of 1965 Hesse began to make three- dimensional works. According to the exhibition leaflet, fourteen of these were exhibited later that year, together with thirty-five drawings, in an exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf (Eva Hesse, Materialbilder und Zeichnungen, Aug.-Oct.); Hesse returned to America in September. The dimensions given in the exhibition leaflet suggest that thirteen of the (untitled) drawings corresponded closely in size with T04154. However, Ellen Johnson is unable to confirm whether or not T04154 was included in the exhibition (letter to compiler 3 June 1988). In the Allen Memorial Art Museum catalogue, Johnson illustrates T04154 immediately after three untitled works all containing the same type of machine imagery and immediately before two drawings which closely resemble two of the reliefs exhibited in Düsseldorf in 1965; no.48, ‘Untitled (for or after ‘Two Handled Orangekeyed Utensil' ... 1965) and no. 49 (repr.V) ‘Untitled (for or after "Legs of a Walking Ball") 1965'. Johnson notes that it is uncertain whether these drawings preceded or followed the reliefs they so closely resemble but notes that Doyle suggested that the reliefs were made partly at the same time and partly afterwards (p.18, and ‘Notes' 20). Lippard reproduces part of a letter written by Hesse where she dates the sculptures' completion as April and May. Both of the sculpture-related drawings contain elements traced from the same sheet as those in T04154 (see Johnson 1982, fig.7). Johnson also suggests that no drawings survive from the end of 1965.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.172-4

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