Eva Hesse, Right After, 1969.
Right After, it’s titled.
The dim, low-lit space signals silence, and so we follow with hushed whispers.
From this distance, it’s suspended line—indecipherable calligraphy made three-dimensional, caught up by silvery spiderweb-thin wire. It hovers like a foggy breath, mid-air in winter’s chill cold, casting long, faint shadows on walls and floors.
This space—this time—seems otherworldly, ethereal, almost.
Look again. From this distance, a tangled mass of fibers, looped, stretched, pulled, hung, and strung out to dry. Gravity carries out its default work and this—this substance, this weary body droops. A push-pull of hanging and hovering, weightless and weighty.
Wait, because this suspension—it’s also suspense.
Right After, it’s titled—so what came before?
Step the periphery—a slow oval around netting and knots dipped and dripped in resin white. We expect (hope for) soft, but this is oddly static, crystalline.
Step under, peer through, look up. Distended belly loops hang from meat hooks and entrails, intestines hover and lines are drawn and space is tangled in the midst of visceral and ethereal, ephemeral and permanent. Time is caught captive by cords and string, and we’re aware—more than ever—of fingers and breath and the space our oh—wholly heavy, fully fragile bodies inhabit.
Right After, it’s titled—so what comes next?
Perhaps answers come in the weight. Listen, lean in, linger. There is something here in this suspended scribble.
Artist Eva Hesse (1936-1970) was an American postminimalist sculptor, best known for her installation art that emphasizes materiality, space, and process over the set permanence of an end product. Hesse was born in Germany to Jewish parents, but was separated from them at a young age to escape Nazi persecution. The family eventually reunited and emigrated to America, but troubles followed. By age ten, Hesse experienced her parent’s divorce, father’s remarriage, and mother’s suicide. Hesse was an artistic child and as a young adult, studied art at the Yale School of Art and Architecture. She established herself amongst her minimalist contemporaries, and was recognized for her boundary-pushing work at the young age of 30—just three years before a brain tumor took her life. It isn’t a surprise that art historians often read Hesse’s difficult life experiences into her raw, emotive, tension-filled work.
Hesse’s art is both reactionary and anticipatory—like the minimalists who preceded her, Hesse sought abstraction, but she avoided the austerity of hard lines, right angles, and cubes. In experimenting with nontraditional art materials like fiberglass, latex, string, and resin, Hesse aimed to explore the tactile, emotive, and often contradictory tensions between her chosen media. Right After, and works like it, invite us to pause, consider, and live in the tension.
Paula Manni (‘13) works as Arts Programming Coordinator and is an arts advocate for the Calvin College community. She enjoys throwing parties on the side, and fills in the gaps with wine making, music listening, museum visiting, and Michigan exploring.