Seoul: ‘Eva Hesse: Spectres and Studiowork’ at Kukje Gallery through April 7, 2012

April 4th, 2012

Eva Hesse, No title (1960). All images © The Estate of Eva Hesse unless otherwise noted.

Eva Hesse: Spectres and Studiowork at Kukje Gallery in Seoul combines two recent critically acclaimed exhibitions exploring German-born, Yale-educated artist Eva Hesse’s early paintings and mature studio practice. Curated by Barry Rosen, Director of the Estate of Eva Hesse and Briony Fer and E. Luanne McKinnon, two acclaimed Hesse scholars, this unique pairing allows visitors an intimate view into the development of the influential artist’s career.

Eva Hesse, Inside I (1967), left, Inside II (1967), right

Eva Hesse took “the total absurdity of life” as the subject of her oeuvre. Influenced by Surrealism, Conceptualism, and Minimalism, the artist engaged in continuous experimentation with new processes and materials over her ten-year career, ended by her untimely death from a brain tumor at age 34 in 1970. A contemporary of Bruce Nauman and Andy Warhol, Hesse worked to expand the possibilities of art, both conceptual and technical. Hesse recognized, even stressed, the transience of her art, using fragile, malleable materials to produce the sculptural assemblages for which she is widely known. Preoccupied with pushing her unconventional materials, including fiberglass, laytex, and rubber, to their limits, Hesse presciently stated, “Life doesn’t last; art doesn’t last.”

Installation view. All installation photographs by Sang-tae Kim, courtesy of Kukje Gallery.

The ‘Spectres’ selection of Kukje’s exhibition displays 20 of a total 48 paintings produced in 1960, the year Hesse returned to New York after completing her BFA at Yale. Attributed the name ‘spectre,’ connoting visions of ghostly apparitions, these paintings describe a spiritual and psychological plumbing of the mind. Expressive faces, alienated figures, and otherworldly creatures rendered in an earthy palette hover between the corporeal and the supernatural. With gestural brushstrokes, drips, and scratching, recalling Willem de Kooning or Alberto Giacometti, Hesse documented the development of her creative identity at the start of her short-lived career. Exploring different states of consciousness, Hesse’s ‘spectre’ paintings reveal the artist’s private struggles and professional aspirations.

Installation view

In the ‘Studiowork’ component of the larger exhibition, visitors gain access to Hesse’s studio practice. By presenting little seen maquettes of the artist’s larger finished sculptures, the curators demonstrate Hesse’s diverse use of materials and reveal the artistic process—those moments between thinking and making. Hesse manipulated resin, string, plaster, and other fragile media into delicate sculptures, working in the spaces between the figure and the abstract, the rigid and the pliable, the machine-made and the handcrafted. In Hesse’s ‘Studioworks,’ viewers confront the results of an artist’s encounter with her materials.

Installation view

Eva Hesse, No title (1969)

Installation view

Eva Hesse, No title (1960). © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Photo by Stefan Altenburger Photography Zurich

Installation view

Eva Hesse, No title (1960)

—P. Lathrop

Related Links:

Exhibition Site [Kukje Gallery]
Artist Estate Site [Eva Hesse Estate]
Artist Gallery Site [Hauser & Wirth]
Eva Hesse: Spectres and Studiowork [The Korea Times]
Eva Hesse: Spectres and Studiowork [The Korea Herald]