• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1905

    Post War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Session

    14 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 354

    Eva Hesse (1936-1970)

    Untitled

    Price Realised  

    Eva Hesse (1936-1970)
    Untitled
    signed and dated 'eva hesse 1960 JULY' (on the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm.)
    Painted in 1960.


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    "Fresh out of Yale in 1959, Hesse was concerned that painting was the only viable path to artistic success, and she struggled to find her painterly voice. Despite the positive reception of her drawings, Hesse turned her attention to painting, and focused her energies on harnessing oil and canvas. "Must paint soon, drawing not enough," she wrote in 1960. "Only painting can now see me through and I must see it throughIt is [the] source of my goals, ambitions and satisfactions ." (H. A. Cooper, ed., Eva Hesse: Retrospective, New Haven and London, 1992, p. 22). The canvases from 1960-61 demonstrate what fraught terrain painting was for Hesse, for they illustrate both its pleasures and hazards. Their worked-over surfaces are laden with strokes and drips, suggestion deliberate, intense labor.

    Hesse was keenly interested in the grotesque and abject-Linda Norden writes about it as the "ick" of her work. (L. Norden, "Getting to 'Ick': To Know What One is Not," in H. A. Cooper, ed., Eva Hesse: Retrospective, New Haven and London, 1992, p. 70, no. 1). Which is not to say that they lack levity. The humor in the paintings is perverse, as Hesse took delight in mutating what should be precious. Thus a bow in the hair becomes a kind of parasite lodged on the temple, feeding on a wide plane of forehead. Some figures groan under the weight of heavy hats and stiff helmets of hair. The paintings depict faces undergoing transformation: eyes bulge out or droop and slide precariously down an expanse of cheek. Narrow noses are shunted to the side and heads flatten or swell.

    Most of these paintings are untitled. A few, however, have been identified as self-portraits. But if they are all images of self-regard, they are duplicitous, for their murky color yields no clear insights about the artist aside from a sense that she is seriously grappling with the process and paint. Pea green and mustard clot into truncated bodies and overripe heads. They show an economy of gesture, a limited palette of forms; as Anne Wagner writes, "These are faces and bodies made up of parts: blocky units, small geometries that do their duty as eyes or nose or mouth or brow." (A. M. Wagner, Three Artists, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1996, p. 195-96)."

    (J. Bryan-Wilson, Eva Hesse: Painting the Self, exh. cat., New Haven and London, 2002, 112).

    Provenance

    Robert Miller Gallery, New York
    Private collection, New York


    Literature

    C. Marco, "Eva Hesse, en el núcleo de lo contemporáneo," ABC de las artes, 28 February 1993, p. 34.
    J. Pierrard, "Eva Hesse," Le Point, no. 1078, 15 May 1993 (illustrated). S. Risaliti, "Eva Hesse: Heart of Darkness," Flash Art, vol. 26, no. 171, Milano, July/August 1993, p. 111.
    A. M. Wagner, "Another Hesse," October, no. 69, New York, Summer 1994, p. 53 (illustrated).
    A. M. Wagner, Three Artists (Three Women): Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner and O'Keeffe, Berkeley, 1996, p. 205, no. 25 (illustrated).
    A. Spohn, "I will paint against every rule I or others have invisibly placed," (Eva Hesse, 28 October 1960), Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde von Eva Hesse, Berlin: Freie Universität, 1997 (dissertation).
    M. Nixon, "Seeing Hesse," Sculptural Journal, vol. 8, London, 2002, p. 91 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Rheinhallen der Köner Messe, Bilderstreit, Widerspruch, Einheit und Fragment in der Kunst seit, April-June 1989, Valencia, Ivam Centre Julio Gonzalez and Paris, Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Eva Hesse, February-April 1993, p. 57, no. 3 (illustrated).
    Ulmer Museum, Eva Hesse: Drawings in Space--Bilder und Reliefs, March-May 1994, pp. 20 and 127 (illustrated).
    New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Eva Hesse: Dream Portraits, Paintings from 1960-61, March-April 1996.