January 5, 2012
The Haunting of Eva Hesse: 
No title, from a series of paintings Eva Hesse made in 1960 that don’t look anything like the elegant, poetic post-Minimalist sculpture the artist is best known for. They’re like de Koonings and Giacomettis with their  flesh dripping, and their eyes gouged out. With anxious, messy strokes,  Hesse conjured ghastly girlish faces with piercing yellow eyes, creepy  humanoid forms resembling skeletons, zombies, and aliens, bloated female  figures colliding, and a spectral bride who is haunting or haunted by a  phantom. The artist, trained in color theory by Josef Albers,  deployed a grayish palette, “both ashen and sallow, highlighted with  accents of the nauseous,” as E. Luanne McKinnon puts it in the catalog  for the current Brooklyn Museum exhibition of 19 of these paintings…
Whether the artist would have approved of the  exhibition is a mystery. Apparently Hesse never showed these paintings  to anybody, except, evidently, one or more to her psychiatrist (who  ended up owning one, a disfigured face thought to be a self-portrait). Maybe she thought they’d be bad for her career…
Read more in my new story in Tablet. 



The Rachofsky Collection.  Courtesy Brooklyn Museum.

The Haunting of Eva Hesse:

No title, from a series of paintings Eva Hesse made in 1960 that don’t look anything like the elegant, poetic post-Minimalist sculpture the artist is best known for. They’re like de Koonings and Giacomettis with their flesh dripping, and their eyes gouged out. With anxious, messy strokes, Hesse conjured ghastly girlish faces with piercing yellow eyes, creepy humanoid forms resembling skeletons, zombies, and aliens, bloated female figures colliding, and a spectral bride who is haunting or haunted by a phantom. The artist, trained in color theory by Josef Albers, deployed a grayish palette, “both ashen and sallow, highlighted with accents of the nauseous,” as E. Luanne McKinnon puts it in the catalog for the current Brooklyn Museum exhibition of 19 of these paintings…

Whether the artist would have approved of the exhibition is a mystery. Apparently Hesse never showed these paintings to anybody, except, evidently, one or more to her psychiatrist (who ended up owning one, a disfigured face thought to be a self-portrait). Maybe she thought they’d be bad for her career…

Read more in my new story in Tablet

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