The South Gallery at Hauser & Wirth currently houses an enigmatic collection of Eva Hesse’s artwork, made during a stay in Germany in 1965.
This exhibition brings together drawings, paintings, reliefs and sculptures from Hesse’s short, yet pivotal time in Germany. There, Hesse’s studio space was an abandoned textile factory in Kettqig an der Ruhr. The sharp lines found in the factory were inspiration for the multifarious, innovative, yet nonsensical forms that would dominate Hesse’s creative output at the time.
The work on display is delicate and captivating. Each room is tastefully arranged, and deserves careful consideration. An Ear in a Pond is immediately striking, the fleshy surface implores the viewer to caress it. Many of these paintings are three-dimensional, foreshadowing the sculptural turn Hesse’s work took when she returned to New York.
Although the relief paintings overshadow the myriad of sketches and preparatory drawings, the sketches provide vital insight into Hesse’s work. They are compositional experiments and unlike her paintings and sculptures they are not immediately approachable. They provide a richer understanding of her artistic process and the importance of her Studiowork.
Cool Zone, made from enamel, rope, and found objects, marks a seamless transition from drawing to sculpture.
The small number of sculptures included doesn’t disappoint; these pieces are visceral, precarious and comforting. Sans II made from fibreglass and polyester resin is tucked away in a corner room, affording space for the viewer to appreciate its breath-taking composition. With Hesse’s dynamic sculptures there is more than mere tactile attraction, the work is imbued with overwhelming desire. Each piece in this show has the extraordinary ability to convey the experience of touch via the eyes.
In Eva Hesse: 1965 we see an artist evoking the mechanical surroundings of her factory-based studio. While there are elements of the machine here, the body is ever apparent. With Hesse you don’t need an arsenal of education or knowledge to approach the work – everything is right in front of you.
Eva Hesse, Oomamaboomba, May 1965. © The Estate of Eva Hesse, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Eva Hesse, An Ear in a Pond, April 1965. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich
Eva Hesse, Cool Zone, July 1965. Courtesy Audrey Irmas, Los Angeles CA