On February 8th, Alfred University hosted a presentation of the life and works of Eva Hesse at Harder Hall. A two hour documentary was shown that focused on her personal life as well as her more notable works. Through her art, Eva learned how to explore concepts of feminism, ridiculousness, and frailty. The use of materials was very important to her sculptures, as she often used latex or fiberglass in brand new ways.
Eva Hesse, Hang Up (1966) Eva Hesse, Ring Around Rosie (1965) Eva Hesse, Reflection Nineteen(1966)
Sculptures such as Ring Around Rosie (1965) or Hang Up (1966) were successful because they took advantage of their respective materials. Ring Around Rosie used cloth covered wires layered in concentric circles to give the impression of breasts, and such fabric is important to make this relief sculpture appear soft and organic. Hang Up consists of a steel wire that protrudes out of its frame and awkwardly leads into the gallery. Her intention was to make something absurdly extreme, and the limp metal is very effective at conveying this. The best example of expression through choice of material comes through in Repetition Nineteen. Here, a series of short disfigured cylinders made of fiberglass are presented, and each cylinder is slightly unique in shape. This fiberglass is prone to decay, and over time Repetition Nineteen will deteriorate, but this does not bother Eva Hesse. She sees this unavoidable fate as a quality of life itself, and in a fairly nihilistic remark she stated that “Life doesn’t last; Art doesn’t last. It doesn’t matter.”
Initially Eva Hesse was inspired by the minimalist art movement, but over time she developed a more post-minimalist style that involved organic shapes and sometimes erotic subject matter. This is in contrast with the more geometric, abstracted aesthetic of mainstream minimalism. She left New York City just as pop art was beginning to make waves there, and although she was not exactly a fan, she didn’t hate it the same way her husband Tom Doyle did.