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S32 Ep5

Eva Hesse

Premiere: 8/31/2018 | 00:01:43 |

One of the few women recognized as central to the New York art scene, she had over 20 group shows scheduled for 1970 in addition to being chosen for a cover article in ArtForum Magazine.



About the Episode

Photo credit: Herman Landshoff

As the wild ride of the 1960s came to a close, Eva Hesse, a 34 year-old German-born American artist was cresting the wave of a swiftly rising career. One of the few women recognized as central to the New York art scene, she had over 20 group shows scheduled for 1970 in addition to being chosen for a cover article in ArtForum Magazine. Her inventive sculptures were finally receiving both the critical and commercial attention they deserved. When she died in May 1970 from a brain tumor, the life of one of that decades’ most passionate and brilliant artists was tragically cut short. American Masters deepens the understanding of this extraordinary artist, not only in terms of her innovative work with fiberglass and latex, but also the life that provided the fertile soil for her achievements. Through dozens of new interviews, Hesse’s artwork and a wealth of newly discovered archival imagery, the documentary traces Hesse’s path and delves deep into the creative communities of 1960s New York and Germany. Written and directed by Marcie Begleiter.



“Accretion” (1968) by Eva Hesse. Installation at the Hamburger Kunsthalle 2013. Credit: MD Begleiter


“Repetition Nineteen III” (1968) by Eva Hesse. Credit: MD Begleiter.

See more art work by Eva Hesse.


Eva Hesse is a bdks production co-produced with Televisor Troika in co-production with Avro, SVT and WDR in cooperation with ARTE, with the support of Film- und Medienstiftung NRW. Marcie Begleiter is writer, director and producer. Karen S. Shapiro and Michael P. Aust are producers. Louise Rosen is consulting producer. Lawrence Benenson is executive producer. Funding is provided in part by Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Phillip & Muriel Berman Foundation, Agnes Gund through the A G Foundation, Larry Marx, Mickey and Jeanne Klein, Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum Educational Trust, Stolaroff Family Foundation, Kate Ganz, and California Community Foundation.

About American Masters
Launched in 1986 on PBS, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel. The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details).

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.


Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Rosalind P. Walter, Judith & Burton Resnick, The Cheryl & Philip Milstein family, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Seton J. Melvin, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation and public television viewers.


♪♪ ♪♪ -There's not been one normal thing in my life.

Not one.

Art is the easiest thing.

It doesn't mean I've worked little on it, but it's the only thing I never had to.

♪♪ -Eva Hesse was one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century.

Her idea was to make an art that was on the borderline of uncontrollability.

-This was someone who'd not simply made small scale work, but someone who's capable of making really major statements.

♪♪ -I have the most openness about my art.

I'm willing, really, to walk on the edge.

And if I haven't achieved it, that's where I want to go.

-Her sensibility was exquisite.

And you could feel the tension in her voice when she spoke about her work.

-I get so close, then change, destroy.

I get distrustful of myself... Painting went lousy today... To be able to finish one and stand ground.

This is me; this is what I want to say.

-Eva's life and her art definitely merged.

She wasn't just manipulating materials; she was the materials.

-It all fell together at one point for her.

And she ran with it.

-One day, it will all fit together, and I feel capable of being there and ready.

It will all have been worthwhile for what I've gained from it.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ I'm not a writer.

Nor, may you say, should be that pretentious to write down my thoughts.

An autobiographical sketch of a nobody.

This is the story of one whom, from the outside, reveals a rather pretty picture.

Pretty face, pretty body, pretty dress.

However, the person does not feel pretty inside.

I have felt, for the majority of my life, different, alone, and apart from others.

To complicate the matter some, for the last years I have shown and developed talents as a painter -- a good one, at that.

Was it in my feeling estranged and different that I could claim the title of painter?

What I've accepted as the answer is that the true artist is paradoxically also the true personal misfit.

♪♪ -Eva was definitely my father's favorite.

Not because -- only because he, I think, felt that she was more vulnerable.

I was the older one and I understood more.

But I think that he was so off base.

Eva was the strong one.

There were times she'd felt helpless.

But she had gutsiness right from the get-go.

♪♪ -When I was 16, I went to Pratt Institute... And I didn't like it very much at all.

When you started painting class, you had to do a lemon still life.

And then you graduated to a lemon and bread still life.

And then you graduated to a lemon, bread, and egg still life.

And this was not my idea of painting.

I waited until I was getting A's instead of C's and declared I was quitting.

I had to know that it wasn't because I wasn't doing well.

So I had to go home.

As soon as I got there, my stepmother said, 'Get a job.'

So where do you go at 16 and a half, knowing very little and having an interest in art?

♪♪ I took myself to magazine.

And for some strange reason, they hired me.

I think it was just because of the gall of coming up there.

-She had the experience of working at a woman's magazine and she said it made a huge difference for her, that it gave her confidence.

And she got some of her work out into the world.

♪♪ -I took the middle of the year test for Cooper Union, and that was the only plan I made.

I had to make it.

I got in.

And the following September, I went to Cooper Union, which I loved from the very start.

Eva was certainly aware that she wanted to be an artist.

But my father could not accept that.

-Dear Evachen, you were always very successful in all that you did.

But painting and studying are pleasant jobs.

In order to stand on your feet, you have to do things which you feel today are not so pleasant.

And if a person has a job or earns a living, this is something which also gives satisfaction.

-Daddy, I want to do more than just exist, to live happily and contented with a home, children, to do the same chores every day.

I am an artist.

I want to experience all what life has to offer.

And I have to do this for myself.

♪♪ -I met Eva when she was 17.

What fascinated me most about her was her hands.

She spoke with her hands.

All the vitality in her came through her hands.

We spent an enormous amount of time together.

And that became a very close friendship.

-Dearest Rosie, I dreamt that you and I collaborated on a book where we talked over our entire past; very honest, nothing hidden.

The whole bit.

-She was living on Jane Street.

She had a little room with a gigantic bed.

She was very comfortable in this box, almost, of a room.

As long as she could do her art, it didn't matter.

-We both went to Cooper Union and Yale.

I was two years younger than her so I watched her.

I had this sense that she was somebody to watch.

She was very smart, articulate, and beautiful person who needed someone to listen to her so she could get it all out and work.

-She went to Yale and studied painting, famously with -- most famously with Josef Albers.

-I was Albers' little color studyist.

Everybody always called me that.

And every time he walked into the classroom he would ask, 'What did Eva do?'

♪♪ The last two years have probably been the two most eventful, with the greatest of change deep inside myself.

I've become a painter.

-She finished art school at the end of the '50s, and she went from Yale into New York in 1960.

Kennedy had been elected.

This was really the dawn of a new age.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -I've moved so rapidly.

I feel so alive.

I'm almost too anxious for every moment and every future moment.

-Being an artist in New York City in the '60s was totally wonderful.

♪♪ -It was a great time.

In almost all facets of work and music, literature, poetry, but particularly in painting; everything was opening up.

There was a feeling like we were reinventing painting.

-I will abandon restrictions and curbs imposed on myself.

I will strip me of superficial dishonesties.

I will paint against every rule.

♪♪ -And you have to understand that that time, there wasn't any art world.

There were people making work for themselves and for each other.

And there wasn't any product.

Commodification hadn't happened.

The art world hadn't been taken over by collectors.

-No one was thinking about how much money they were going to make.

It was all dedicating your life to your work.

And I know that Eva felt that way, too.

-Only painting can now see me through.

It is totally interdependent with my entire being.

It is what I have found through which I can express myself.

♪♪ ♪♪ -She came to New York and I met her.

She'd just gotten out of Yale.

Eva was very pretty, and cute... very alive and hip, and knew a lot of people because of being at Yale.

I recognized that she had something extraordinary about her work.

-I'm beginning to sell and show my work, in that order.

One gave me the confidence to proceed to the other.

International Watercolor Show at the Brooklyn Museum and 3 Young Americans, my show last evening.

It is the beginning of being fully in the midst of the art world.

♪♪ I've been with Tom Doyle the last three days.

I'm really so happy.

-There was a party held at this friend of mine's place.

And I was in a fight.

This guy was making out with my girlfriend, so I hit him.

Eva was at the party and she took me in the kitchen and washed my face, and she was very nice to me, you know, and that was the first time I met her.

-Tom is a beautiful human being and I enjoy all aspects of him.

It is a real, live, and beautiful romance.

-Tom was a wonderful, lively, poetic, funny Irish drunk at that point.

-She was warned against him, that he comes from a very wild crowd, really wasn't good for her.

But he gave her something that she very much needed.

-I feel he's really with me, and I am with him.

I have never felt this before.

-That summer, Eva and Tom invited me to go to George Segal's farm.

[ Indistinct conversation ] -All these young artists are coming up from New York to do this carnival.

And there was gonna be a sculpture dance.

I made a sculpture that was like a fighter plane.

And Eva -- it was her first sculpture, really, was a very, kind of, formless thing.

Two people got in and danced.

And all these sculptures were dancing.

♪♪ -They also had a happening.

It was living theater without any script.

-There was a dancer, Yvonne Rainer, who was dancing on the roof of a barn.

-Artists were interfacing with a lot of dancers at the time.

We thought that there were more ideas generated in dance than being generated by sculptors or painters.

♪♪ -Eva had constructed a tube made of fabric that people were to wiggle through.

♪♪ It was fun. It was artists playing and having a good time.

♪♪ -All is well.

It's been a beautiful week.

I love Tom more every day.

-Her father said, 'I don't want you marrying anyone except a Jew.'

And so I converted.

I became a Jew. I mean, I -- went to shul, I did the whole number.

-You know, they were not interested in any religion.

But for my father and because of our German background, she went along with it and Tom went along with it.

-Two or three friends of mine all had never been bar mitzvahed so we had a bar mitzvah -- we played Belle Barth records, you know.

And gave each other fountain pens; the whole stick.

-Tom was a good and interesting sculptor, just coming into his mature work, and Eva was clearly a good artist.

But there wasn't anything unique there, yet.

But she was very ambitious and full of youthful art energy.

-We got a loft on 19th and 5th Avenue.

It was a great loft. It was a half a block long.

We rented part of it out to Ethelyn Honing.

-One of the mornings that I arrive, I told them about the fact that I had just seen a major exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery.

It was called 'Pop Art.'

And I said, 'I think you ought to get over there and take a look and see what's going on.

It's never gonna be the same.'

♪♪ -Pop Art, of course, burst onto the scene, and that was a big deal.

Pop Art was a sort of game changer.

-♪ Oh, baby, you've been messing ♪ -The discussions that came up afterwards of people for and against it were passionate.

-And of course Eva always went to museums and knew exactly what was going on.

-And I have a feeling that she might have been more for it than Tom.

♪♪ -She didn't have accepted truths.

And she examined and doubted, and, um, thought about things.

-Should I impose my preconceived ideas on painting?

And to what degree must I go along with what happens on canvas in the moment?

-When she was painting, she was very blocked.

But her early collages were extraordinary.

I mean, she could draw like nobody.

Any time she drew anything, it was really beautiful.

-For me, painting has become that: making art; painting a painting.

The history, the tradition is too much there.

I want to be surprised.

I will continue drawing, push the individuality of them, even though they go against every major trend.

[Bleep] that.

So did everyone I admire.

-Eva was working at a jewelry store on Bleaker Street, and I got a job teaching at the New School.

And that's one of the two jobs I had, and that's how we were sort of living on that.

And then what happened was Nolde Ruedlinger, the director the Kunstverein, and a bunch of German collectors saw my stone sculptures.

Ruedlinger was going to give me a show in Basel.

He said, 'How do you move these things?'

I said, 'Well, you have to build a box and lala.'

And Scheidt said, 'Look, we have stone very much like that.

Why don't you come to Germany and, uh, you know, you can make the sculpture in Germany and we'll send it to Switzerland, you know?'

And I said, 'Yeah, I would do that.'

♪♪ Eva was sort of scared about going there, you know, because of what happened -- had happened to her family.

-I sit here now panicked and crying.

The pressure of leaving lies heavy on me.

-And I said: Look, it's a good time to be out of New York.

Pop Art is a big thing, now.

We'll let that die down.

And Scheidt was going to give me a salary and everything, you know -- we won't have to work.

You know, we'll just work on our work.

-I remember her saying that she was frightened of going back to this place where she had suffered so much.

-But Sol LeWitt, a close friend, a close confidante, encouraged her, saying that she would be well served to get out of the New York art scene.

She would be able to work in a much freer manner.

♪♪ -Dear Mr. Scheidt, I have begun to make preparations for our trip, so the whole thing is becoming very real for us.

-It was Tom's opportunity -- it was Tom who had been asked to go to Germany.

It was very hard for her.

But Eva wouldn't let an opportunity go by.

Eva was a risk taker.

Though Eva was a little bit more of a wife at that point, but all that would change.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Man speaking German ] ♪♪ -Tom and Eva were set up in Kettwig, this town that had these textile factories that had been in the family of Arnold Scheidt for hundreds of years.

[ Machines whirring ] -Where Eva and Tom lived were over there, that was the so-called -- [ Speaking German ] [ Whirring ] But the part where they were working that was already -- -That was closed down already. -Closed down.

-Our studio, top floor with skylight and windows every two feet.

I sit and hope I will work some.

I might just have to believe in me more before working will mean something to me.

-The first time that I saw Eva, she gave me a very warm feeling, um, a feeling of being welcomed.

I was five years old and she invited me to come to the atelier.

She wanted to show me how to paint.

And of course we played lots in the pool.

♪♪ You had these water balls, playing, and we were jumping into the pool.

It was great.

She painted for my other brother, Karl, a picture called 'Waterball Play.'

I guess she loved it, too, being with us and just playing.

So I have very sunny impressions, but I also have some memories later in the year.

There was something in her which was... [ Speaking German ] Sad.

I think it was difficult for her being in this country.

-June 13, 1964.

Our sixth day here in Kettwig.

Yesterday I had some melancholy.

I developed some of my more troubled thoughts and feelings.

I was born in Germany in 1936.

♪♪ -My family is from Hamburg, Germany, northern Germany.

That's where I was born and that's where Eva was born.

-My father was a criminal lawyer.

He had just finished his two doctorates.

And I had the most beautiful mother in the world.

She looked like Ingrid Bergman.

She studied art in Hamburg.

-My father kept a about my life and Eva's life.

It's really a journal.

-May this book of your childhood become a guide in your later life.

In it, you will realize how you grew up.

None of this may get lost, my beloved child, because there is nothing that sustains us more in the hardships of our lives than a review of our childhood.

♪♪ -When Helen was born, freedom and truth had vanished already from Germany.

It was already five months that Hitler raged.

-German Jewish life changed very quickly.

When the Nazis came to power in January 1933, there was so many deprivation.

People were hurt.

They couldn't work in their professions anymore.

It was forbidden to work as a so-called Jewish lawyer.

-I lost my profession on April 24, 1933.

And then there were more hard years.

[ Shouting in German ] ♪♪ -After November 10, when all the synagogues had been destroyed, all Jewish businesses wrecked, almost all the men had been arrested, and the most horrible atrocities of all kinds been committed against the Jews all over Germany.

One tried from abroad, at least, to save the children as speedily as possible.

♪♪ On December 7, Helen and Eva left for Holland with the children's transport.

Will there be a reunion?

Will we get murdered first?

We were not allowed on the platform.

Helen and Eva held hands and marched off to the train, accompanied by criminals certified as customs officials and Gestapo.

[ Whistle blows ] [ Children singing in German ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -Eva was under 3, and I was 5 1/2.

♪♪ -We went to Holland.

We were supposed to be picked up by my father's brother and his wife, but they weren't allowed to do it.

We were put in a Catholic children's home.

-I remember that Eva had been toilet trained at home, but she must have regressed with all that happened and they spanked her.

She took sick around her birthday time, and she was quarantined so they didn't let me see her.

-In the beginning of February, Ruth and I were rescued, as well.

We came to Holland and picked up the children.

-My father's brother and his wife ended up in concentration camps.

And all of my grandparents and everybody.

No one made it.

But we did.

We went to America via one of my father's cousins.

It was the end of summer, 1939.

It was very, very late.

It was the last chance.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Wind rustling ] July 21, 1964.

Dear Rosie, I had a slow week.

Did not push at all.

Took it easy.

I don't know what it means to really delve into the past; family and such.

I must be too afraid.

The first two weeks here, I had terrible, gruesome nightmares.

Frightful dream.

Large party.

Hundreds of people.


Tom very drunk.

I heard someone tell him, 'Take your lovely wife home.'

He carried me outside, ran with me, fast.

Hurt me.

We went higher and higher through the sky.

There was a French Legion parade beneath us.

Officers came out, and, with long, saber swords, cut the heads off all the Legionnaires.

I had to control Tom.

Officers then grabbed us and threw us into solitary.

We had swords held inches away, I by my screaming head.

I could no longer control myself but was warned to behave.

They said that if I were not a child, they already would've killed me.

♪♪ Friday.

Initially, I felt different.

But once again, I'm left with myself.

Started work in oil paint today.

Did two tiny, very expressionistic paintings.

Feel rather enthused, since I enjoyed them and they seemed real for me.

Somehow, I think that counts.

I'm still not working right, as I know in my mind one should.

Tom also can find working difficult.

Less so, as he knows what he's about; what he wants to achieve.

-When she would talk about her work, she would talk about it really in quite self-deprecating terms.

She would say, 'You know, I'm patshke-ing around with new things.'

And I thought to myself, that's a funny thing to say.

You would never same Tom's patshke-ing around.

She wasn't sure, yet.

Tom was sure.

-I met Eva and Tom Doyle during the Short Film Days, a film festival of short films in Oberhausen, and I remember that Eva liked specially a Japanese film by Yoji Kuri, 'Aos.'



-Eva took those boxes as a scene in some of her paintings later on.

[ Grunting noises on film ] Eva was ready all the time to take all the inferences that she saw and to work on them, to find her own way.

-In the 15 months Eva Hesse was in Germany, there happened a lot.

Together with Tom Doyle, she went into every important museum in whole Europe.

They were in London, in Paris, in Rome.

-Brussels. Went to museum.

Bruegel and Bosch, Alechinsky, Matsys, Calder, Moore, Chilida, Davie, Noguchi.

-She was a person whose eyes were open, open, open, and she needed food for her eyes.

-Tom and Eva Doyle, Kettwig.

Hope you had a good trip. Now back to work.

All sculptures are objects of one kind or another.

Don't fight it.

Go, go. Sol.

-We worked on each other's stuff.

I mean, she helped me when I painted my sculpture.

And I helped her, you know, as much as -- I built frames, I built everything, you know.

Our private life was not so great, but our working life was very good.

Except I drank a little too much, then, you know.

I was drinking a lot.

That wasn't too good.

-Saturday, October 3.

Tom knocked someone unconscious.

Tom worse than ever before, and I cried and was miserable all night.

♪♪ Dearest Rosie, my anger at Tom increases.

It verges on a breaking point.

At parties, he is obnoxious.

He goes from woman to next woman, dips them to ground.

They love it.

-I'm not proud of it but I -- that's the way I was, you know?

And that's the way everybody was, you know?

It's like -- it's like -- that's why you were an artist, you know, so you... [ Chuckles ] -Recently it has got out of hand.

You'll be concerned by this.

He kisses them.

It sounds so strange to write this.

But Rosie, my pride hurts to be there watching.

It hurts.

-She sort of withdrew, you know, and, uh... she never really come out against it, but, you know, she was very hurt by it, I think.

-Eva writes -- she always says it's her art that pulled her through.

Personally, I think she fell apart, and professionally, she forced herself to go on.

♪♪ -Thursday, November 19.

I've turned over a new leaf.

I will try another way.

Made drawings for children on Saturday.

They were colorful -- red, blue, yellow, green.

In squares, each one a letter of alphabet.

It set me off again because they are different; just enough to make me wonder where I'm going, and is there an idea, or too many different ones?

♪♪ -I think maybe the relationship going bad on some level maybe had something to do with it.

You know, it's a horrible fact of a lot of creativity; when you're unhappy, you often do better work.

But, but she really wasn't dependent on him as much anymore, I think, and really branched out and did her own thing.

-Dear Rosie, I want to explain what I've been doing.

In the abandoned factory where we work, there's lots of junk around.

I have, all these months, looked over much of the junk.

I finally started using some of it.

I'm working on masonite.

On this, I build forms with glue and paper.

On some forms, I've glued cord.

-That is when she did Ringaround Arosie.

Because I was pregnant with Joseph.

-Yesterday and today I worked on a three dimensional contraption.

Not finished yet, but it is weird.

I just don't know.

The old story: defeatist, no patience.

Or just not sure what I really want it to be.

♪♪ April 2, 1965.

Dear Sol, it is to you I want to talk about what is on my mind.

I trust myself not enough to come through with any one idea.

So I fluctuate between working at the confusion or non-working at the confusion.

When not actually at work, I nevertheless struggle with the ideas.

♪♪ -April 14, 1965.

Dear Eva, you seem the same as always.

And being you, hate every minute of it.


Learn to say '[bleep] you' to the world every once in a while.

You have every right to.

-I find nothing I do gives me the feeling that this is right.

Constant frustration and failure.

-Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, bitching, moaning, groaning, horse [bleep] trickling, nose sticking, eyeball-poking ass-gouging, searching, purging, grinding, besmirching, grinding, grinding, away at yourself.

Stop it and just do.

-I have done drawings.

Seems like hundreds.

Clean, clear, but crazy, like machines.

Larger and bolder, articulately described.

Real nonsense.

-That sounds fine, wonderful. Real nonsense.

Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines.

Make them abound with nonsense.

-One should be content with the process as well as the result.

I'm not.

-Stop worrying about big, deep things.

You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty.

Then you'll be able to do.

-I sit now after two days of working on a dumb thing, which is three dimensional.

And I should go on with it but I don't know where I belong.

So I give it up again.

-The work you do is very good.

Try to do some bad work, the worst you can think of, and see what happens.

But mainly, relax and let everything go to hell.

You're not responsible for the world.

You are only responsible for your work.

So do it.

♪♪ -April 23. Worked all evening.

Finished an Ear in a Pond.

♪♪ ♪♪ Dear Sol, I want to thank you for your letter.

I finished one more. They are good.

I'm working a third one.

Much difficulties, but at least I'm pushing, and I will be.

I swear it.

♪♪ ♪♪ -It was completely new, leaving the frame and being part of the image.

Some artists worked out of the frame, but nearly nobody was so radical as Eva has been.

♪♪ These aren't works that Eva had quite seen before.

They're made for herself; they're not made for an audience.

They're made in the same way as... her diaries were made, or her notebooks were made.

She's exploring.

You know, I mean you see it in the work.

You see her trying out different combinations.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -My parents were very fond of Eva and Tom's work.

And they wanted to show.

They thought, well, let's party together and show the people what Eva and Tom had done in this year here in Kettwig.

♪♪ ♪♪ It was really an event.

-Oxenfest, as we called it, like ox parties and where a whole ox was being put on a spit and then roasted.

♪♪ -It was a big exhibition.

Tom Doyle was a star, internationally known with a big exhibition in Bern, and Eva was just a side show in a small garden house.

But the people were interested in her work.

-Show went well. I sold two.

I will also show August 6, in graphics room in Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf.

-She came to Germany as a painter.

Being in a world of new influences helped her to create her new universe of art, which was the point of no return, Now she was a sculptor.

♪♪ -Eva was in Germany almost an entire year before she went to discover her background.

My father had given her information -- names and addresses -- and she sought them out.

♪♪ She went to Hameln, where my mother was born.

-We took train to Hameln, found house immediately.

Very strange.

Mrs. Wolfe, a neighbor, two of mom's school friends.

Visit to all of the workers, former, of my grandfather.

♪♪ It's a weird experience, like a secretive mission; a new generation seeking the past.

I, knowing next to nothing of my family, my grandparents.

Off to Hamburg.

Went to Isestrasse.


-She went to the place where we lived and was turned away by someone at the door, which was very tough on her.

-To not let her in, let her see her home, I think was so terrible.

So that only retrospectively can lead me to understand how awfully difficult it must have been for her to face her past again.

-Dear Sol, just returned from H and H.

Visited where I was born in Hamburg.

In Hameln, house of my mother.

Quite a trying scene.

Tears all around, and much talk of those times when no one knew what was happening.

I was the ghost from the past.

Their guilt and all was just pouring out.

On to better times and doings.

Yes, Sol, we are coming home.

♪♪ ♪♪ -That trip to Germany, with all the hazards, was empowering.

I think she came back very, very satisfied that she really had taken off.

-September 30.

Almost one complete in the U.S.

♪♪ Dear Arnt, dear Issa, we are working hard and also very busy socially.

The year in Kettwig, dear Arnt, was more, much more, than some help to both of us.

The work we are now doing does show how much we grew and developed because of the beautiful year you gave us.

-When Eva went to Germany, she was a sort of post abstract expressionist.

When she came back, she was a funny kind of surrealist.

The work in Germany obviously had freed her up.

And then she came back, and I think at that point she sort of fell under the influence of minimalism.

I don't think anybody discouraged her from the strange little things she was doing in Germany, but the art world was going in a different direction and she intuitively picked up on it.

♪♪ When minimalism came along, there was a whole, new world.

You know, no curves, no color, no anything; just presence.

It was a lot about presence.

-People said, you're a minimalist, what does that mean?

And I said I just had to get rid of a lot of useless garbage and get right down to a few essentials.

-I think minimalism came out of abstract expressionism.

It sort of toned down the brush stroke.

At the same time, there was the other tradition -- people whose work was more personal and more intense, and perhaps more surrealist.

Eva, of course, was a transitional figure from a minimalist -- her friends were all minimalists -- but she was very personal.

There was a lot of eroticism in her work.

It was so warm and human and full of soul.

-I feel so strongly that the only art is the art of the artist, personally.

My interest is in solely finding my own way.

I don't mind being miles from everybody else.

-She did talk a great deal about eccentricity and absurdity, particular absurdity, that her life had been absurd, her life at present was absurd, and she wanted to get that into the work.

-I just remember that wall where she had all those different pieces hung.

I saw her rearranging one of those long, sausage pieces.

And she was kind of high on the ridiculousness of it.

Her life was so full of synchronistic oddities, and there's this sense that, well, we're just not in control.

The universe is pulling the strings and you might as well stand back and just enjoy it.

-I look back on that period with Eva's work and think, oh, that was the preface to feminist art.

-Certainly I've grown within myself.

I think my hang-ups now are almost all related to Tom.

-We had two lofts on the Bowery.

We lived at 134, and my studio was at 135 Bowery, right across the street.

I would -- I've worked all the time.

♪♪ -It is now 12:30 a.m.

I am alone.

Tom never with me any longer.

Carries on as always and runs around.

He goes to openings and parties.

But those things he attends never with me.

-She was very difficult, you know, in many ways.

I wasn't the only bad person about the whole thing.

It was like she was very high-maintenance, you know?

Christmas came and I bought this beautiful pipe.

And I came home and Eva said, 'How much did it cost?'

I said, '35 bucks.'

She said, 'Get out.'

And that was the words I was waiting for, and I left.

-All over.

Tom is gone.

He wants a divorce.

I messed all up.

Begged. He's indifferent.

I'm tired and again feel worn and used and taken advantage.

That is the childish Eva, the one that is haunted by her past isolation and loneliness.

The one abandoned by her mother, who was sick and therefore not able to have done otherwise.

♪♪ -That's hard.

My mother was what we call today bipolar.

♪♪ -My mother was there but not there.

There, but not there.

-My mother had a very difficult time adapting.

And then it came to a head at a certain point, and then she felt she was no longer able to care for us and she left.

-I was shifted from home to home, and used to be terrified.

-It was the end of the war.

And all along, my father had been working on getting my mother's parents out of Germany.

But it all came to nothing.

And when my mother got the notification that her parents were taken into the concentration camp and they had died, uh... she jumped from the roof.

♪♪ My father did not tell us.

It was in the papers, and kids taunted my sister at school, and she refused to go to school.

♪♪ -I had tremendous fear, incredible fear.

I had my father tuck my blankets in tight into my bed, which had bars at the bottom, which I would hold at night.

And he would have to tell me that he'd be there to take care of me in the morning.

-Eva was ten when my mother died, exactly.

That's exactly around her birthday time.

And that's why January was the worst month of the year for her.

♪♪ Eva continued to be upset years after my mother died.

And at my stepmother's urging, they sought out a therapist and Eva started to see Dr. Helene Papanek.

-Please, Dr. Papanek, you've got to help me.

Or maybe soon I'll be with my mommy.

I'll talk to you.

I'll tell you all.

I hope I can.

-She was suffering greatly from the circumstances of her childhood, and this therapy was absolutely essential to her.

-I cannot stand the aloneness because it represents abandonment.

-She wasn't happy with Tom, and she wasn't happy without him.

But then, she was working a lot and that masked her unhappiness somewhat.

-All my stakes are in my work.

I've given up in all else.

♪♪ I do feel I am an artist, and one of the best.

I do, deeply.

♪♪ ♪♪ -The power of her purpose was more important than what was going on in her life.

-Finished two pieces today.

I worked hard.

-She was crawling on the floor at times because of the Tom business, and still the art went on.

-Dear Issa, dear Arnt.

The last months have been very difficult.

It's sad how things happen.

Tom and I are separated.

At the same time, very much has happened for both of us in our work.

We both have exhibitions opening the same evening, March 1.

-I went there to the Graham Gallery when she first showed because I really wanted to see what she was doing.

And I was just floored.

♪♪ ♪♪ She did this great work, Hang Up.

It was, like, so audacious.

I mean, it was such a leap for the work.

♪♪ And that's one of the great sculptures of that time.

I mean, it's just unbelievable.

-It is not a painting. It is not a sculpture.

It just is art.

-Hang Up is the most important early statement I made.

It was the first time my idea of absurdity, of extreme feeling, came through.

-She used the sheets from my house.

She said, 'Rosie, do you have any sheets I could use?

Preferably blue.'

I said, 'Sure, take the sheets.'

And she wrapped them, and there was a kind of sage-like, spiritual sense of someone using space that way.

And I always -- whenever I see it, I say, 'Ooh, those are my sheets.'

[ Laughs ] -The whole thing is ludicrous.

It's the most ridiculous structure that I ever made, and that is why it is really good.

-My father came to that gallery.

He looked so stern and so unhappy.

Knowing my father, he had to be proud of Eva to be in an exhibition.

But I think he was just confused by the art and didn't understand it.

♪♪ -I was pretty madly in love with Eva.

And I've learned subsequently that a lot of guys were madly in love with Eva.

She was very soulful.

I'm not sure how orthodox or practicing Eva's family was, but her Jewishness was obvious.

It's a spirituality, and I think it expressed itself in Eva's art.

♪♪ -She was making these circles in grids.

And I gave her this paper that was clay based, and she loved it, because it soaked the ink up in a certain way.

♪♪ They were exquisite, and I've never forgotten.

They said something to me that I wanted in my work.

♪♪ -Weather varied from 103 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sol and I went to the Modern and movies.

-There was a very strong relationship between Sol and Eva.

They had so much in common and cared for each other so much.

And she expressed to me that, 'It would be so nice if I could love Sol and if we could be together.'

-The days passed with the most unbearable heat.

I fear giving way.

Without Sol, I would.

-He adored her and never got tired of indulging her, and being kind to her, and being an inspiration.

-Eva was the love of Sol LeWitt's life.

And Eva loved Sol.

I once asked Eva, I said, 'You know, Sol's a great guy; he's a great artist and he loves you and you love him.

How come you never got together?'

And she said, 'You don't go to bed with your brother,' which was, to me, very touching.

And I understood, you know, what she meant.

-I am numb.

Daddy is dead.

♪♪ -My father was in Europe, and he got sick and died.

It was a nightmare for both of us.

♪♪ -Sol and I walked New York City today.

There's not a thing I can do.

-Eva was devastated with my father's death, just totally devastated.

And I think theirs was a real love relationship at that time.

It was his -- [Speaking German] -I stood tall at my father's funeral.

I was big inside, not the scared, helpless child.

I loved my father.

It showed.

Daddy, your books you made for me are my thoughts of you.

I would have liked you to know about the shows and articles.

You would have been so pleased and proud and less scared for me.

We were always too scared, you and I.

We even shared that.

-Please, always realize, dear Effian, you will never be alone.

Do not forget, I love you very much.

And if you are strong enough to make me very happy, please try to be happy.


-I must now work even harder to be strong, get well.

Yes, be happy.

Started to work.


But I know how important it is now for me, and that it almost alone can again make me stand tall.

♪♪ Finished Laocoon.

Cords everywhere.

-She used this word 'making it' all the time.

She was so obsessed with making it.

♪♪ -Lucy wants me to do a big piece for show.

Anything I want to do.

I'm excited.

-I was doing a show called Eccentric Abstraction.

And I thought of it in some ways as a kind of vehicle for Eva's work.

I was looking for something that wasn't cold, hard minimalism.

I just wanted something else.

And I realized later it was something feminist or female.

I wanted to see these hard grids screwed up a little bit and messed with, and Eva was certainly doing that.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -In the exhibition Eccentric Abstraction, Eva showed Metronomic Irregularity.

And there it was a great surprise.

It was her kind of minimalism.

You have those rectangular, ordered systems.

You have the chaos of those wires.

And this contradiction is a very important thing in her work.

-She was able to learn all the lessons of the minimalists, and yet take it into her own area, where issues of absurdity and humor and crudeness came in.

-The show got a certain amount of attention, and Hilton Kramer wrote about it in -When the reviewed it, it gave much more space to the men in the show, and she was pissed and felt discriminated against.

She felt she deserved much more space and much more attention.

And I think it was an accurate assessment.

-I am reading Simone de Beauvoir's 'Second Sex.'

I always felt that all women were up against it.

Simone kind of agrees.

'A fantastic strength is necessary, and courage.

But we'll make it.'

-It was harder for women in lots of ways, just because of the way the art world is structured.

Men got more encouragement and got more support.

-Women weren't even seen, so that you were invisible.

Eva was doing this extraordinary work and being seen by a few people.

So that broke some barriers and I could see the cracks happening in the male dominated system.

-Her belief was simple.

I'm an artist.

And I want to be known as an artist.

Any time they tried to make her a woman artist, she got furious.

-The way to beat discrimination in art is by art.

Excellence has no sex.

December 23, 1966.

It is a fitting ending for another strange, bewildering, sad, and yet strangely productive year.

A fine abandonment.

And Daddy's death.

And now, on to work and other changes.

♪♪ January 1, 1967.

I'm working well and eager to go on.

Might even be ready for first one-man show by next fall.

Tonight we meet at Smithson's.


It will be his 28th birthday.

♪♪ -We became part of a certain community that was around there.

Sol LeWitt was certainly very central to it.

♪♪ -We hung out with Dan Graham, Mel Bochner, and Eva and Sol, and Carl Andre.

Went to each other's studios.

People were feeling their way along, like nothing was clear yet.

It was all in formation.

So having conversations and exchanges at that moment was powerful.

-What do you mean by that?

I mean, you have to define yourself better than that.

You just can't throw words around.

You have to really be precise. -Oh, words don't mean anything.

Words are... -Things are really happening in New York, this is the time of Max's Kansas City, and all these artists were still hard drinking, nightlife kind of people.

-We went to Max's Kansas City.

Carl, Andre and Mel had heated discussion until closing.

-I think intellectually she was quite brilliant and underestimated by all her minimal art friends.

She was very, very ambitious, so she was looking at everybody's work.

Whereas the minimal artists were pretty self satisfied that they had the answer.

-She was very involved with the specific medium that she was working with.

One of the things of the '60s was Canal Street technology.

And so, I mean, she got into that.

[ Horn honks ] [ Indistinct chatter ] -Canal Street was just a wonderland.

I loved walking up and down Canal Street, looking at all the materials.

And often, the materials would lead you to an idea.

-It was like shopping in Tiffany's, except the Tiffany's had little rubber things, and you didn't know what they were.

-There was a rubber store.

There was stores that sold old shell casings.

Everything was down there.

It was part of being in Lower Manhattan.

I mean Lower Manhattan was so great.

Trucks were going by all the time, and it had so many wonderful, stimulating things going on there that affected all of us, you know?

-You know, the closest you come to it for me now is Home Depot. [ Chuckles ] You know, I go in there, and it's like, 'Oh, look at all this stuff.'

-But it's not Canal Street.

-No, it isn't. It isn't.

♪♪ -Spent morning shopping on Canal Street.

Sol joined me.

Must have spent 20 to 30 dollars.

♪♪ ♪♪ Friday, Canal Street.

Take magnets, try washers.

Two wires and weights.

♪♪ -She said that she wanted to make her work ucky.

Not yucky, but ucky.

She had to do something with it that made it feel good to her.

-Eva was dealing with materials that were debased.

They were industrial materials that were waste materials.

I think Eva just had a fascination maybe with the kind of junk culture that you could find in New York.

-But, I mean, she took all these things and made them so completely her own that they lost all of their junky quality.

-I can see Eva just sort of sitting there with her materials, almost like they were -- it was another creature and working with them.

But not another creature, maybe herself 'cause they were so self-identified.

This was where she put a lot of her anxieties was into her art, I think.

I don't want to get too psychology-oriented on this because it's very unpopular now to do that.

But with Eva, it's almost impossible not to think psychologically when you know her work and her as a person.

- Friday, July 28th.

Call Donald Droll until midnight.

-Donald Droll was more or less running Fischbach, which was such a powerhouse gallery.

And he was very skillful at recognizing artists.

-He had a great eye.

-He had a great eye, yeah.

- Friday evening.

Donald Droll said if I'm ready, I can do a show.

I can have the main large room this spring.

-And that was a big deal.

It was a huge opportunity.

♪♪ -Eva had gorgeous, black, long hair.

She symbolically, cut all of her hair off.

♪ ♪ It was gonna be another time in her life.

It was away from being this wife, and it was all gonna be about her work.

- Friday, March 8th.

Dorothy B. Movie.

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Factory for epoxy. Rubber or plastic.

♪ ♪ Flexible durability.

-She was always expanding, going beyond what she knew.

That was her purpose.

- Silicone.

120 ccs, 20 ccs.

Silastex, 120 ccs.

-A group called Experiments in Art and Technology had come together to bring artists into the orbit of people using new technologies.

Eva Hesse was admitted to the group, and she attended lectures in the use of polymers and latex.

- One, liquid.

Two, clear rubber.

Three, sets after 24 hours.

Four... -Matter matters.

And I think it's really clear in Eva's work that the material manifestation of the form comes out of an intense investigation of the matter.

-Tuesday, April 30th.

Go to Arco, Canal Street, Aegis.

-Aegis Reinforced Plastics was created specifically to help artists create their particular things, including people like Bob Morris and Tom Doyle and Rob Smithson.

Bob Morris brought Eva in.

I showed her what you could do.

How'd fiberglass act when it was saturated?

When it was hard, it would look like it was still soft.

That was one of the good things because she liked soft.

I guess that we made a connection, and a couple of months later, we started working on her pieces.

The first piece I made for Eva was called And she showed me some drawings.

Very simple line drawing of a cylinder.

She gave me dimensions and 19 of them.

♪♪ We made up these cylinders, coated them with fiberglass, and let them harden up.

And then we had to peel out the newspaper.

♪♪ She comes all the way out to Staten Island... [ Bell dings ] ...and she's horrified.

I mean, beyond horrified.

They were just too perfect.

So I told her, 'Look, you make the buckets out of papier-mâché. I will make them exactly the way you've made them in fiberglass.'

-So she set about to do it again.

And this time, with her hand, she did something to each piece, and it was not cylinders.

For her, the specificity was personal, it was physical, and was her touch, her way.

-A couple weeks later, she comes out.

She's got these 19 buckets, and they're bigger now.

And so we made these buckets, coated them with the resin, put them on the table, put the light on, and bing.

♪♪ ♪♪ They were just, like, this gorgeous thing.

She was ecstatic.

I mean, this was just the best thing she'd ever seen.

At that point, we were a team.

It was just, 'Let's do this, and we're gonna make sculptures,' and she was terribly excited.

She said, 'Why not come over and live with me?'

So I did.

♪♪ She had a show coming up at the Fischbach.

And so we would wake up in the morning, and it was, 'Let's do the art.'

And we'd work all day and all night until we'd just collapse.

We made a session which was basically a box that we covered on the outside with a very thick layer of fiberglass.

And then we would drill holes through this piece of fiberglass.

Was 29,000 holes we made in that.

And I helped her put the tubes in this thing.

[ Gasps ] Never seen anything so sexual and fantastic in my whole life.

And Eva just would sit there, and boom, and boom, and boom in a meticulous, methodical rhythm.

In they went.

-When you put your head inside, you couldn't hear anything outside.

And, of course, she lived on the Bowery, and it was noisy and there's drunks and there's yelling and there's all kinds of noise.

You couldn't hear a thing.

It was wonderful.

You'd go in there, and it was just like being in a cave.

Her feeling was that the art was the artifact of the process.

The art was in the making, the artifact was what was left over.

It was just this wonderful time of just creating art.

And I was madly in love with her.

Absolutely just -- Um, I don't think she was madly in love with me.

I know she was infatuated with me, that's for sure.

There was no question about that.

But she was in love with her art.

♪♪ -Tuesday, June 4th.

Aegis. Rubber.

Four pints together.

Tube plastic.

Give Doug this.

Sunday, July 7th.

Organic and inorganic polymers.

Chain polymers.

-She rubberized fabric, cheesecloth.

That was discovering a new process.

It wasn't something that was already there in the world.

♪♪ -Monday, July 8th.

New work.

Rubber, fiberglass.

-I let her know that plastics and rubber are fugitive.

Rubber will last, the best, 10, 15 years.

And it gradually starts cracking, and it starts turning to dust.

She said, 'Good.

Let them worry about it,' talking about the museum people.

'So what?

I want what the effect is now.'

-Sunday, October 27th.

Sans, complete, fini.

Turned out great.

♪♪ Saturday, November 16th.


♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ I would like the work to be non work.

To find its way beyond my preconceptions.

To go beyond what I know and can know.

It is something.

It is nothing.

♪♪ -I went to the opening.

Oh, and I'd been looking at art since I was just a kid.

I saw work that I had never seen before.

And yet, as absolutely original as it was, it was incredibly reflective of our time and of all time and of real feeling.

♪♪ -Eva's work arced her new sensibility.

It was distinctive.

It was her own.

Fragile, beautiful, tentative.

It was all those things that sculpture was not supposed to be.

-'Eva Hesse.

This is a first one-man show of uncommon interest.

Miss Hesse's work is located, uneasily but interestingly, between two poles -- the realm of highly rationalized form, and the realm of surrealist dream objects.

-We had about eight or nine shows we wanted to see on that day.

And the last one on the list turned out to be Eva Hesse.

And I walked into the Fischbach gallery, and I suddenly saw the most beautiful things I'd ever seen and the most fascinating.

-There was this extraordinary work.

And Eva herself is there in the back room.

And she looks not unlike my sister Kate, a fact which is not lost on him.

-I was charmed and fell for her immediately.

Thought she was marvelous.

-He decides to do something he hasn't done in many years, which is to buy some work.

-When the Ganzs bought some pieces, she came back to the studio and she said, 'They're gonna buy some of my pieces.

They collect Picassos, also.

That's all, me and Picasso.' [ Laughs ] It was just like, wow.

-She would come to dinner rather frequently, and we always had a lovely evening.

♪♪ -Sold four more drawings.

Whitney Spring Show, Time Magazine Arts Section.

-She was one of the artists in New York.

She was the only woman, basically, that was in the group.

She was one of the boys.

♪♪ ♪♪ -She went into an extraordinary work mode.

I mean, she was extraordinarily productive and beginning to emerge and get responses from places.

-So much is going on.

I had lots of success.

I'm asked to be in so many shows, I can't keep up.

♪♪ In October, I'll go to Europe, have one-man show at Gallery Ricka in Cologne.

For March, I'm preparing work for the Whitney.

♪♪ Show includes Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and me.

♪♪ -She was getting a lot of headaches.

She would get dizzy and couldn't really function.

She'd be squinting and just this severe pain.

And I kept on saying to her, 'Look, you've got to see a doctor.'

And she just avoided it.

-I remember the night, and we were all there with Eva, and we realized that something really was wrong.

Her headache was just terrible.

♪♪ Previously, the psychiatrist had said it was physical, and the physical doctors had said it was psychiatric.

And she was very ridden by anxieties, and so it seemed possible that that was what was going on.

But at that point, she was really in pain, and I think we figured out that this was more than we thought it was.

[ Siren wails ] ♪♪ -April 10th.

I was admitted to New York Hospital to be examined, tested.

-She was there for days, and they couldn't find anything wrong.

And they did a spinal tap, and thank God -- she would have died that day.

-My tumor was so enlarged, it had no free space to move, so it was tipping my brain over.

There wasn't much time.

Saw images, color flashes.

Very, very beautiful.

Was not afraid.

Wanted to touch, connect with those with me.

I was very in touch with them, and they with me.

I spoke.

I smiled.

I fantasized.

I had visions.

I loved.

I could not speak enough.

I saw faces.

I saw love, happiness.

-She was operated, and I come in there -- I can really still see it -- and she's sitting up in bed, bandaged around the head, and she's feeling fantastic.

And she just -- now, the headache was gone and she wasn't in pain and she felt great.

And she said, 'How lucky I am -- they've got it all, and I'm just so lucky.'

-I think back to where it all began.

I was so ill.

I had signs, but I would not recognize them.

One can deny anything.

-People thought when she got sick that the materials were to blame.

I mean, there were other people working with latex, but she was, like I said, really into her materials, so she was probably breathing them and, you know, tasting them, even. Who knows?

-I mean, this is the beginning of fiberglass, but it really is not that toxic, and her tumor was far too large to even think that that small amount of exposure that she had gave her that brain tumor.

-I often try to tease out, was it the resins she worked with, or was it just some genetic DNA fluke?

Well, we'll never know.

♪♪ -In the last year and now since my illness, I just want to live, let go, call the past past, and have another try.

My God, anyone who knows my history and knows me knows I deserve it.

It's true.

There's never been a time or scene that qualifies as norm.

Extremes on every side.

♪♪ -She stayed with me in Woodstock.

She came with her bag of paints.

It was right after.

She didn't have the energy to go back to the studio to be alone and to do sculpture, so she was going to do these paper paintings.

♪♪ -Today is the third day I feel a little better, a little stronger, a little more hopeful, a little less sickness.

How grateful I am.

I have much to do.

-We got up early in the morning.

We had muesli, a cup of tea, and then we'd go to work.

And the work was on the porch.

And it started to rain, and it never stopped.

But we worked every day.

I had never worked on art like that.

We just devoted ourselves to working and she to making these paintings, these beautiful paper paintings.

♪♪ She scraped through them, she made lines.

-She was layering on washes of paint in the same, delicate way that she had handled her latex until the point where the consistency of the material on the paper became right for her.

They have the ambition of paintings, and they have been compared to the late works of Mark Rothko.

♪♪ -We'd also sometimes go shopping.

And she bought these worms, once -- fistfuls.

And I asked her, I said, 'Oh, what are you gonna do?'

She said, 'I don't know yet.'

She said, 'I'll play with them for awhile.'

And she'd look, and she would decide what to do with something.

-One of the great things she teaches us, I think, is play, that really the best thing any of us can do with materials is play with them.

Play with them until the form begins to have an impact.

And she absolutely couldn't stop playing.

And I think it saved her life.

-The lack of energy I have is contrasted by a psychic energy of rebirth, a will to start to live again, work again, be seen, love.

I fight sleep to respond to this real excitement that is frustrated because there is little I can do.

-Oh, it would be so easy to give up and say, 'I can't deal with all of these negative things, I can't think about my work so I'm just going to concentrate on my medical problems.'

But Eva insisted on having it all.

-I think she did it because she didn't know what else to do.

-Made her feel alive.

-It made her feel alive, right.

-Her chance to be a great artist was on her, and she knew it.

She knew she was doing really good work.

And of course, everybody was being very supportive, too.

You know, a lot of very well-known artists, you know, were very fond of her and really told her, 'This is great, keep going, this is wonderful.'

So it was -- In a funny way, it was the great time of her life, I think.

♪♪ -She came back to the Bowery and she called me and it was just, 'Let's go, let's get to work.'

Then we started to do that sculpture right after.

♪♪ There was so much energy.

We were giggling and having this wonderful time.

The stuff was dripping all over the place.

And this just -- this wonderful, cobwebby kind of thing all across the room.

We had a rough time getting around it.

-Climbing around, getting things up, moved about, around, and hung.

Four hands changing, manipulating changes.

Things to allow, things to happen.

Suspended hangings enabling themselves to continue, connect, and multiply.

♪♪ -She took that feeling right after her cancer operation -- the scars and the wearing of the wigs and all that it meant.

Now, she had vanity.

Eva had vanity.

So she took it all and put it into that piece.

She had this horrible wig from Sassoon, but she would laugh about it.

-I do remember visiting her in the hospital and having her whip off her wig with great pride and say, 'Look what I look like bald.'

I mean -- [ Laughs ] She thought it was quite funny.

-In such a hard year, with so many operations and so many things going wrong, we had a lot of good times -- amazing.

And I really credit that to something that I was just doing and she did naturally, was to live in the moment.

-There certainly is the desire to write and work.

I can't get started.

Days pass.

I do so very little.

I did have a tape interview with Cindy Nemser.

[ Tape recorder clicks ] Three different days.

[ ] major piece of sculpture that Eva Hesse made in her life.

And it's quite possibly her masterpiece.

She describes making this piece as being a kind of choreography.

She was dipping the rope into buckets of latex, and then working with an assistant and hanging it from the rafters of her studio.

-So it's serendipity of taking a found material, processing that, and letting gravity do its thing.

-Hung irregularly, tying knots as connections, really letting it go as it will, allowing it to determine more of the way it completes itself.

Non forms, non planned, non art, non nothing.

♪♪ ♪♪ -She was using her own body, her own experience, dealing with the issues of her own mortality.

Coming to terms with that.

♪♪ -It was not much longer after that that she was rushed to New York Hospital because she was in excruciating pain.

-It is time again.

I have another brain tumor.

-She was operated on March 29th.

It was that surgery did have an effect.

She did lose it after that surgery.

-The decision was made by Helen not to tell Eva that she was sick and going to die.

-I was there when she asked the doctor, was this going to come back again?

We were holding hands.

And he said, 'Yes, this is the kind of tumor that might come back again.

And we just -- That was it. She knew.

People said, 'Oh, she didn't know to' -- Of course she knew.

-I knew. No fear.

I did not fear death.

I knew it was there -- could be.

But I did not fear.

♪♪ -When she was in the hospital the third time, I went to visit.

She was feeling better. She was sitting up.

She had a newsprint pad, and she was making something.

And she said, 'Look, what do you think?'

I said, 'They look like a bunch of feet.

What is that?' And she laughed.

She says, 'Oh, I didn't think of -- Oh, they're feet!

Oh, isn't that -- Well, now.'

And we laughed, and she made a little model.

♪♪ And then, of course, she made that great sculpture.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -She was very sick at that point, and she couldn't work.

But she had a couple of students that were star pupils, and they made the piece.

♪♪ -They put them in too much of an order.

She said, 'Oh, I don't want them in that order.'

She wanted more absurd.

-She had a show at the Steuben Glass on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

The were in that show, and at the same time, she was the cover of was on the cover of and that was the time when she was really not copacetic.

We cut it out.

We scotch-taped it across from her bed.

And at one point, she says, 'That.

That's me.'

♪♪ -I am not unhappy, not at all.

I look at the past three and a half years with a kind of amazement.

All that has come to pass.

My changes outside and inside.

I can be proud.

-Eva died on May 29th, 1970, a Friday.

She was 34 years old.

-Dear Grace, I received a telegram from Helen about Eva's death when I arrived here Saturday.

I am so sad. You must be, too.

She was a good friend, a best friend for both of us.

It still hasn't hit home because I'm not there to see and talk to her.

When I realize that it could never happen again, I'll be heartbroken. Love, Sol.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Water sloshing ] [ Boat engine humming ] -Despite the fact that Eva Hesse has had exhibitions throughout the world, this is more special, perhaps more emotional, because this is the city where Eva and I were born.

[ Indistinct conversations ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -I first encountered Eva Hesse's work, and it was like feeding a starving person.

It was exactly what I had been waiting for.

She's telling me yet again that the work can come from you.

And it has this deep sense of intimacy and this closeness.

You can still feel the presence of the act of making.

The artist is there, embedded in what is -- what you're looking at.

♪♪ -It's one of the most exciting takes on painting that I've seen in the last few years.

It's great to see something so material and so bright and captivating.

♪♪ -She's part of history now.

She is somebody that young artists will always know about, which is wonderful.

-I don't think the work has yet been fully digested.

It's still full of surprises.

There's plenty to pull out of it.

So I think the inference will continue to grow.

The ripples will keep coming out of [ Chuckles ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -In 1972, the Guggenheim mounted a memorial exhibition.

And it was incredible. It was the whole Guggenheim.

♪♪ -I don't think all of us realized how good that work was.

I mean, you know, it was five years' work.

I had a show at the Guggenheim of approximately five years' work, and it was one ring around the museum, you know?

When you see the volume of what Eva was able to accomplish in that period of time, it makes you realize what you're able to do in five years.

-Everything that happened to her, good or bad, empowered her.

That's the magnificence of art.

♪♪ -I remember there were about three or four of us sitting around talking.

And she was describing her work and how ephemeral it was and how she wasn't concerned with its lasting, and that the materials might degrade was part of the package.

And she said, 'See this glass?' [ Chuckles ] And she threw it against the fireplace, and it smashed.

And she said, 'That's how my work is.'

-Life doesn't last.

♪♪ Art doesn't last.

♪♪ It doesn't matter.

♪♪ O0 C1 ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪


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