Eva Hesse’s ‘Expanded Expansion’ Has Aged at Human Scale

Expanded Expansion. Installation view, Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, May 19–July 6, 1969

“Like visiting an aging parent after years away, going to an Eva Hesse show puts mortality on the mind. The materials of her late career—latex, fiberglass, rubber—decompose, becoming more brittle each time we see them. Her forms themselves evoke bodies. Ringaround Arosie (1965), a Masonite relief mounded with electrical wire and cloth, resembles a large areola. Dangling in nets, the polyethylene spheres of Untitled or Not Yet (1966) suggest the gonads of an unknown species. In artificial chemical compounds, Hesse found a volatile, pangender, even posthuman fleshiness, marking a distinct territory in the crowded field of 1960s artists. Then, only months after 1970 rolled around, at just 34 and the height of her vision, she died of a brain tumor—a result, many have speculated, of her working with molten plastics and styrenes. Thanks to her pieces’ short lifespans, each show of Hesse’s late work feels like a fleeting opportunity. We must visit Venice before it sinks into the sea! Held by museum collections far and wide, these sculptures, which she made after transitioning from abstract painting, in 1965, are rarely displayed. Some, such as Sans III (1969), an L-shaped chain of small boxes, have grown frangible and brown to the point of unrecognizability. Most pose curational dilemmas: Would Hesse, who likened her practice to a glass that sails through the air and shatters in a fireplace, show this work, had she survived? The questions are not only obstacles to museums and viewers but creative provocations that draw her gorgeous objects into conceptual realms. And perhaps none of her constructions has aged with the vexing force of Expanded Expansion (1969), among her last completed large sculptures and the centerpiece of a Guggenheim exhibition of the same name. …”
W – Eva Hesse
YouTube: Eva Hesse on Painting, Eva Hesse

Aught, 1968

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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