The first signs of Hesse’s illness appeared in 1968, and in April 1969 she collapsed. Three operations for a brain tumour followed, but she continued to work intensively with the help of assistants. One of her final works, Untitled 1970, is a visceral tangle of rope encased in latex. Its gestural intensity has been compared to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. Like the modular pieces Accession 1968 and Tori 1969, there is no predetermined way to install the rope piece. Hesse remarked:
Maybe I’ll make it more structured, maybe I’ll leave it changeable. When it’s completed its order could be chaos. Chaos can be structured as non-chaos.
Hesse’s use of experimental materials such as latex and fibreglass was ground-breaking, but the unstable nature of some of these substances has meant that certain works have degraded, or are extremely fragile.Hessewas aware of this, seeming to accept the potential demise of her work and her own mortality in the same fatalistic manner. In 1970, she remarked:
At this point I feel a little guilty when people want to buy [latex works]. I think they know but I want to write them a letter and say it is not going to last… life doesn’t last, art doesn’t last, it doesn’t matter.