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A sculptor who celebrated the absurd by joining unlikely objects, Eva Hesse made pieces with rubber tubing, synthetic resins, cord, cloth, wire, papier-mache and wood. Many of these works had sexual and organic imagery and reflected the terrors of her early childhood in Nazi Germany.

She was born in Hamburg, Germany, and fled the Hitler regime with her family to become a resident of New York City in 1939 when she was three years old. Her parents divorced shortly after their arrival, and her mother later committed suicide.

Eva attended the Pratt Institute briefly, Cooper Union for three years, and then Yale University where she earned a B.F.A. in 1959. Two years later she married the abstract sculptor Tom Doyle, and in 1964 returned to Germany where, in an attempt to reconstruct her psyche from annihilation, she traced her family history and began sculpting as a way of expressing her emotions.

In 1965, she exhibited vibrantly colored collages at Dusseldorf before returning in the Fall to New York. The next year she and her husband separated, and she became totally dedicated to her abstract artwork, rejecting Minimalism’s hard-edged geometry and lack of emotion but incorporating the repetitions of motif. She was especially close friends with Robert Smithson and Sol LeWitt.

In 1969, she had the first of three operations to remove a brain tumor, and in spite of her illness, was highly prolific in this year before her death from cancer.

In 1972, the Guggenheim Museum had a retrospective exhibition of her work, and in 2006 the Jewish Museum in New York City had the next major exhibition that included 33 pieces. Called “Eva Hesse Sculpture”, it included latex and fiberglass sculpture as well as drawings—all intended to show the evolution of her work.

Sources include:
Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, American Women Artists, pp. 366-367
Eve Hesse Exhibit, Antiques and the Art Weekly, May 12, 2006, p. 13

Biography from the Archives of AskART.