Eva Hesse in New York, NY

I took the subway up to the Guggenheim and just as I was exiting the station, a huge thunderstorm opened up and I got absolutely drenched. All I could do was laugh, as it was too late to seek shelter. I walked to the Guggenheim, and dried myself under a bathroom wall dryer as best as I could. It didn’t help much. I walked into the gallery with Eva Hesse’s Expanded Expansion piece, and completely forgot about how bedraggled I looked. I sat and watched the Guggenheim produced documentary, The Afterlife of Eva Hesse’s Expanded Expansion, which covers the research and conservation that went into Expanded Expansion, twice, and have watched it multiple times at home since. The exhibition was awesome.

Expanded Expansion, 1969
Fiberglass, polyester resin, latex, and cheesecloth
10 feet 2 inches x 25 feet overall

I had a hard time getting a full photo of the panel as there was a very intense security guard standing in front of the piece. He would not budge. He was on high alert, reprimanding anyone who came within feet of it. I took some bad photos of him with the piece, walked through the rest of the museum, and came back after a guard change to get more.

Another view

“Influential and experimental artist Eva Hesse (b. 1936, Hamburg, Germany; d. 1970, New York) sought to make objects that were neither painting nor sculpture, but a hybrid that was all her own. This exhibition centers around Expanded Expansion (1969), a monumental piece from the Guggenheim collection publicly displayed for the first time in 35 years, while also offering a glimpse into the artist’s studio practice and approach to art-making. To make Expanded Expansion, Hesse juxtaposed soft, draping panels of rubberized cheesecloth with rigid fiberglass and polyester resin poles that extend to form “legs.” Simultaneously humorous and commanding, the work’s repeating segments lean against the wall and can be manipulated to expand and contract. The artist described the work as “opposite in form, large, looming, powerful yet precarious.” Embodying her interest in materiality, absurdity, and incongruities, this presentation brings to the fore the temporalities of exhibition and interpretation, elucidating the contextual nature of perception and the experience and stewardship of an artwork over time.” (Guggenheim)

Close-up
The work came into the Guggenheim’s collection in 1975, and has been in storage since 1988
Eva Hesse in 1969
Eva Hesse: A Memorial Exhibition, 1972

“Accompanying Expanded Expansion is a group of small experimental works, arranged in a manner similar to the artist’s worktable, that reveal Hesse’s hand and visceral manipulation of materials. Unedited archival video and audio—the artist in her studio captured on film by Dorothy Beskind, and an interview by art historian and feminist activist Cindy Nemser—allow for open interpretations of the artist’s words and a rare look into her working and living space.” (Guggenheim)

Eva Hesse in her studio
Untitled, 1967/1968
Glass-and-metal pastry cases containing six objects in various media,
arranged by Sol LeWitt

You might not know this about me, but Eva Hesse is among my top five favorite artists of all time. I rarely see a piece of hers that I don’t adore. I always think how sad it is that she died so young. Each time I see a piece of hers, I marvel at what she accomplished in her short life. I always leave feeling inspired, and unaccomplished.

The exhibition is open through October 17, 2022. I’ll be going again.

3 thoughts on “Eva Hesse in New York, NY

  1. Such a good read: learning about Eva Hesse, your pluck in returning to the show after the change of guard, and the poignant last paragraph.

  2. My dear friend Doug Johns who just passed…was a Sculptor…he was her assistant and worked with Eva making these large pieces..Doug had such wonderful stories of their love for Art and and adventure to get these pieces done..Doug was with her till the end and he finished most of these while she directed him…In the 80s he did a bronze of me…Sabrina the dancer..I spent endless hours amongst the clay…and energy of a genius at work..I’m so proud and delighted Eva has a show going on..She so deserves it..Thank you for the beautiful article…Art lives forever…💛

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