In 1964, Eva Hesse and her husband Tom Doyle were invited by the industrialist Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt to a residency in Kettwig an der Ruhr, Germany. The following fifteen months marked a significant transformation in Hesse’s practice. ‘Eva Hesse 1965’ brings together key drawings, paintings and reliefs from this short, yet pivotal period where the artist was able to re-think her approach to colour, materials and her two-dimensional practice, and begin moving towards sculpture, preparing herself for the momentous strides she would take upon her return to New York.
Hesse’s studio space was located in an abandoned textile factory in Kettwig an der Ruhr.
The building still contained machine parts, tools and materials from its previous use and the angular forms of these disused machines and tools served as inspiration for Hesse’s mechanical drawings and paintings. Sharp lines come together in these works to create complex and futuristic, yet nonsensical forms, which Hesse described in her writings as ‘…clean and clear – but crazy like machines…’.
Seeking a continuation of her mechanical drawings, in March of 1965, Hesse began a period of feverish work in which she made fourteen reliefs, which venture into three-dimensional space. Works such as ‘H + H’ (1965) and ‘Oomamaboomba’ (1965) are the material embodiment of her precisely linear mechanical drawings. Vibrant colours of gouache, varnish and tempera are built up using papier
maché and objects Hesse found in the abandoned factory: wood, metal and most importantly, cord, which was often left to hang, protruding from the picture plane. This motif would reappear in the now iconic sculptures Hesse would make in New York.
The time Hesse spent in Germany amounted to much more than a period
of artistic experimentation. In Germany, Hesse was afforded the freedom to exercise her unique ability to manipulate materials, creating captivating, enigmatic works which would form the foundation of her emerging sculptural practice.
Born in Hamburg in 1936, Eva Hesse and her older sister Helen were sent to Holland on a kindertransport at the end of 1938. Their parents fled Nazi Germany two months later, and the family came to New York. Hesse studied at Pratt Institute of Design, the Cooper Union, and the Yale School of Art and Architecture. Following her studies, Hesse was able to pursue her art for just over a decade, before she died from brain cancer in 1970.
Since her first solo exhibition in 1963, Hesse’s works have been featured in numerous major exhibitions internationally. Recent exhibitions include ‘Eva Hesse Spectres 1960’, organised by Luanne McKinnon for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, which opened at UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles CA (2010); and travelled to University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque NM (2010); and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn NY (2011); and ‘Eva Hesse Studiowork’, which opened at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2009); and travelled to Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2009); Tapies Foundation, Barcelona, Spain (2010); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (2010); Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley CA (2011); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston MA (2011). A major retrospective of Hesse’s work was organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA and Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, Germany in 2002. The exhibition travelled to Tate Modern, London, England in 2002.
Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row, South Gallery 30 January – 9 March 2013
Opening: Tuesday 29 January 6 – 8 pm