It has been too long since the last major Eva Hesse exhibition. In her brief but extremely fruitful career—she died in 1970 at age 34 from brain cancer after 10 intense years of artmaking—Hesse left her mark as one of the most tireless innovators in recent art history. Her work was associated with Conceptualism and Minimalism, but it strayed sufficiently from Minimalism’s geometric rigidity—instead it was soft and flexible—to be deemed “Post-Minimalist” by critic Robert Pincus-Witten. While Hesse is best known for her sculpture, this exhibition incorporates paintings and works on paper (until 19 May). It is the most comprehensive presentation of her oeuvre to date—an oeuvre that is famously difficult to pin down, given the tendency of many works to deteriorate. Her experimentation with unconventional, ultimately unstable materials like latex produced pieces that change over time—some of the sculptures in both private and public collections are too fragile to travel. Eva Hesse was co-organised by independent curator Elizabeth Sussman, and Renate Petzinger from Museum Wiesbaden, Germany, to which it will travel in June. They convened a group of conservators, and hashed out tough decisions such as: Did Hesse accept, or even embrace her pieces’ eventual deterioration? Is it better to restore the works to their original condition, show them in their current condition, or simply show a photograph of the work when it was made? 150 works are on view, including Sans II (below), shown in Hesse’s first solo exhibition in 1968, and now in SFMoMA’s collection. The exhibition’s run at the Whitney Museum of American Art was cancelled, due to post-11 September difficulties.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Eva Hesse'