New York is enjoying an extended minimal moment this fall. Although it’s been over half a century since reductive work made its first appearance, Minimalism’s "Greatest Hits" (and some current favorites) are playing all over town. Is there something in the ether that has provoked a spate of related shows at the same time? Or, as in fashion, is it simply a cycle whose time has come round again? Whatever the reason, there was and is a lot to see—and this is not an oxymoron.
Eve Hesse: Sculpture
Eva Hesse’s long-overdue retrospective, Eva Hesse: Sculpture, curated by Elizabeth Sussman and installed at the Jewish Museum this summer (May 12-September 17), seems to have been the catalyst.
Hesse, as you well know, used non-beautiful materials—modest conventional stuff like twine and rope; industrial stuff like fiberglass; and at-the-time archivally untried stuff, like latex and resins—to effect her reductive and repetitive, and largely translucent, forms. Hesse’s great works are here: the 19 cast fiberglass vessels of Repetition Nineteen III (1968) in curatorially organized disarray; the protuberant grid of Schema (1967-1968); the multiple box-like segments of Sans II (1968); the stuffed latex and canvas panels of Aught (1968); the wall-like curtain of Expanded Expansion (1968); the latex-dipped sheets of Contingent (1969) and more. Since there was no photography in the gallery, I have pulled images from the Internet.
While the work has aged, Hesse has not. She will always be pictured as a round-faced woman in her early 30s. The exhibition includes black-and-white--and voiceless--Super-8 footage from that time showing her working in her studio. Hesse never lived long enough to grow old. Born in 1936 in Hamburg, she died of a brain tumor in New York in 1970 at the age of 34. (It comes as of a shock to realize she would have been 70 this year.)
The show is over, but the museum has produced a catalog, Eva Hesse: Sculpture, and there are a number of additional good books on the artist.