Urgent Museum Notice

Eva Hesse

A black-and-white photograph of a light-skinned young woman with medium-length dark hair. She wears a black long-sleeved shirt, and is seated. She is covered in transluscent, thin, sheets of plastic, which she holds above her head and in her lap.

Photo courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Switzerland, © The Estate of Eva Hesse

1936–1970

Hesse also used techniques traditionally associated with feminine occupations, such as wrapping, winding, and threading. Though abstract, her sculptures retain references to the body and expressed seemingly contradictory associations: female/male, soft/hard, or freedom/confinement. Considered a part of Eccentric Abstraction or Post-Minimalism, Hesse’s sculptures possess a psychological intensity that helped broaden the possibilities for sculptors in a decade dominated by Minimalism.

Born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Hamburg, Germany, Hesse and her family fled Nazi Germany for the U.S. in 1939. Hesse studied in New York City and at the Yale School of Art and Architecture. A year after her first solo exhibition, German collector Arnhard Scheidt invited Hesse and her husband Tom Doyle to spend a year in Kettwig-am-Ruhr working in an empty factory space.

While there, Hesse first created sculpture using industrial materials. Despite her untimely death of a brain tumor in 1970, Hesse’s work has continued to influence other artists to this day. Her allusions to body parts, sexuality, and a feminine element have made her work particularly meaningful to many female sculptors, including Petah Coyne, Rona Pondick, and Kiki Smith.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Eva Hesse
  • Birth

    Hamburg, Germany, 1936
  • Death

    New York City, 1970
  • Phonetic Spelling

    Ay-vah HESS-uh

Works by Eva Hesse

Study for Sculpture

In her abstract sculptures, Eva Hesse modified the precision of 1960s Minimalism to emphasize the expressive and experimental essences of creativity. Hesse’s exploratory approach foreshadowed the multitude of processes and materials that characterize sculpture in our post-modern period. Hesse mined contradictions, developing sculptures that are simultaneously hard and soft, precise and irregular, solid and open, and intellectual and erotic. Her works...

Short, knotted cords, arranged in a symmetrical 9-by-9 grid emerge from a square panel and hang down. Thick, matte-gray paint coats the entire piece, adding rough texture to the panel and stiffening the cords into positions that cast irregular shadows across the work’s surface.