On Eva Hesse


Primary source: Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York: New York University Press, 1976).


 Vinculum II (1969). latex on wire mesh, wire, staples, string. 16 ' x 3".

"Completed in January 1969 for the Bern show (which opened [in Germany] in March), it is a delicate ladder suspended in space by thin diagonal rubber lines from the meeting point of wall and ceiling to the floor, where it is attached in a tangle of string." [note: from the accompanying photo below, it appears that the string was tied to a nail in the floor.]

"'It is very taut,' Hesse said of it. 'It is attached from the two angles so there is a lot of tension, and yet the whole thing is flexible and moves.' Her title notes [on the meaning of the Latin word vinculum] are 'link, that which binds; bond, site, connecting medium.'"
[p. 148; includes illustration below. On p. 204 Lippard notes that in 1966 Hesse acquired a "huge thesaurus from which she subsequently chose her titles."]

But: "perhaps the most drastic way [Hesse] allowed chance to prevail was in her use of latex. No other artist has invested so much time and major work in a medium known to be impermanent" [210].

Vinculum II (1969).


"On December 14 [1964] [Hesse] wrote to Rosie Goldman: 'I want to explain what I have been doing. And although I already question validity, worth, meaning, antecedent etc. I have been enjoying the newness and the work. In the abandoned factory where we work there is lots of junk around. ...I have all these months looked over and at much of the junk. I finally took a screen, heavy mesh which is stretched on a frame like so and taken cord which I cut into smaller pieces. I soak them in plaster and knot each piece through a hole and around wire. It is compulsive work which I enjoy. ...It might work its way to something special. ...On other side it's the knots that are seen....'"
[28-29; bold is Hesse's underlining, in her handwritten letter]

Lippard on repetition in Hesse's work:

"The wrapping and binding and layering process is also repetitive and makes the viewer relive the intensity of the making in a manner far from the abstract or didactic way in which process is used by most men. Women are always derogatorily associated with crafts, and have been conditioned towards such chores as tying, sewing, knotting, wrapping, binding, knitting,, and so on. Hesse's art transcends the cliché of `detail as women's work' while at the same time incorporating these notions of ritual as antidote to isolation and despair. There is that ritual which allows scope to fantasy, compulsive use of the body accompanied by a freeing of the mind. The mythical Penelope is always being mentioned pejoratively in regard to art by women. Yet hers was a positive, not a negative action, despite its impermanence. The act itself can be known, safe, but the result can be highly unexpected. Repetition can be a guard against vulnerability; a bullet-proof vest of closely knit activity can be woven against fate. Ritual and repetition are also ways of containing anger, and of fragmenting fearsome wholes.

... An integral part of Hesse's work is that certain pleasure in proving oneself against perfection, or subverting the order that runs the outside world by action in one's inside world, in despoiling neat edges and angles with'home-made' or natural procedures that relate back to one's own body, one's own personal experience. Thus outwardly rational work can be saturated with a poetic and condensatory intensity that eventualy amounts to the utmost in irrationality. Repetition, and repetition of moveable units in particular, leads to fragmentation, the disintegration of one order in favor of a new one. At the end of her life Hesse was beginning to feel free and strong enough to follow repetition into that area." [209]

Eva Hesse, 1969


Temporal Changes in the Quality

of the Song

Robert Smithson "felt his sculpure Alogon dealt with a 'surd state' also present in [Hesse's] work, `where things don't quite hold up in terms of a given abstraction. We would talk about contrasts, things playing off each other, while she was making Laocoon. Her work had a strong impact on me....'" [p. 84; source is an interview with Smithson by Lippard]

surd: 1. a sum containing one or more irrational numbers. 2. A voiceless sound in speech. Latin surdus, deaf, mute; used in mathematics to translate Arabic jadhr asamm [deaf root], itself a translation of the Greek alogos, speechless, irrational.



Ecological Genetics of a Mosaic Hybrid Zone


"Drying Fishing Nets," by Hatta Koshu,

from Koshu gafu (The Drawing Book of Koshu), 1812


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