Eva Hesse, Test Pieces

Eve Hesse at Hauser & Wirth in April
Here in the anteroom, two sculptures in papier maché and a small wall piece in Sculpmetal

Last month Hauser & Wirth showed work in paper by Eva Hesse. The focus of the show consisted of so-called "test pieces"--small, dimensional sketches created in papier caché, which is paper that is pressed and adhered by tape or glue. Such work by a less iconic artist would never have seen the light of day. But because it is Hesse, we had the opportunity to peek into her process and thinking. Some of the folded forms and concave shapes looked as if they might have been molded over a body, like the hollow of a back or the curve of a shoulder; others, as if the artist was simply doing what her hands and the material allowed. Extraordinarily fragile now (they were made in 1969), they suggest what might have been. The works were displayed on a large table that took up the entire back gallery.

The anteroom held two sculptures and a small wall piece. These sculptures, in papier maché, and the wall piece, in Sculpmetal, are more recognizably Hessian.

Above, Inside II and Inside I, both 1967; acrylic, papier maché, sawdust, wood, cord and metal
Inside views of the respective works below


From the anteroom, above, we can look into the back gallery, below, where the test pieces were displayed on a large table

Above and below, opposite views of the papier caché sculptures on the exhibition plinth. The works were scattered on a table the way they might have been in the artist's studio
Additional: I wrote a long piece on Hesse's career retrospective at the Jewish Museum a few years ago. The post appeared in Two Artists Talking.


Philip Koch said...

I didn't get to see the Hesse work at Hauser & Wirth. Did want to tell the story about the one time I met Eva Hesse.

I was an undergraduate art major at Oberlin College in Ohio in the late 1960's. Eva Hesse came out as a Visiting Artist for two days. She gave a slide presentation one evening . I particularly enjoyed the sldes she showed of her sculpture. The next day she was scheduled to speak to students individually about their work. I was the only student who signed up to have her visit my studio (this was before she was a well-known artist).

Now in fairness, I was just starting as a painter and my work was all over the place with collage, yarn, and paint. It was the work of a beginner. Still this was my first encounter with a Visiting Artist and I was really excited!

At the appointed time she came into the studio, said hello and glanced at the half dozen works I'd placed around the room. She looked for a few seconds and said only " You should come to New York." I waited for her to add something more, but she only nodded and turned to leave. I asked " Could you say something about my paintings before you go ?" She, stopped and over her shoulder said " Oh I wouldn't know what to say about those. But you should come to New York." And with that she left the room. Her total time in the studio was maybe two minutes.

As it turned out, I later did go to New York to study, but I don't think it was because of Eva Hesse's comment that day.

Debra Ramsay said...

I did get in to see these pieces, and enjoyed reviewing them again, here. Seeing your photos reminded me of the overwhelming sense of fragility of the paper pieces and how they functioned (for me) as a metaphor for a memory of life that has passed.

marc said...

Such fragile and beautiful pieces. For how much of much of Hesse's works are documented and have traveled, it seems I'm often finding unfamiliar (for me) work. It's kinda sad to compare some of her work in old reproductions to their current conditions. Time worked it's ways quickly on some of her translucent sculptures.
I wish she would have kept living and working.

Tamar said...

A powerful contrast--the heaviness of the cubes with the almost ephemeral quality of the bowl-like forms. I hadn't seen the show at the Jewish Museum, so thank you for the link to your article.

kim matthews said...

Thanks for covering this. I recommend the exhibition catalog for any Hesse fan or anyone interested in studying artists' working process; it's very well produced and a very good read.

sunil said...

thanks for sharing wonderful post

John Tallman said...

"Eva Hesse Studio Work" by the great Briony Fer, is the essential text for anyone interested in this track of Hesse's work. Fer's writing is so lucid and I believe practically every single "test piece" is in there.