EVA HESSE, a documentary film by Marcie Begleiter, about the art and life of Eva Hesse will be released in the U.S. in April by Zeitgeist Films.
As the wild ride of the 1960’s came to a close, Eva Hesse 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 work was finally receiving both the critical and commercial attention it deserved.
EVA HESSE deepens the understanding of this extraordinary artist, not only in terms of her ground-breaking work, but also the life that provided the fertile soil for her achievements. With dozens of new interviews, high quality footage of Hesse’s artwork and a wealth of newly discoverd archival imagery, the documentary not only traces Eva’s path but engages in a lively investigation into the creative community of 1960’s New York and Germany.
Born in Hamburg in 1936 to a German-Jewish family, the artist’s fierce work ethic may have developed from a complex psychology that was formed, in part, as a Jew born in Nazi Germany. Having escaped the fate of her extended family, Eva and her older sister Helen were sent out on one of the last Kindertransports (trains that carried Jewish children to safety) and was eventually reunited with their parents in Holland. They made their way to New York in 1940 but her family struggled to make a new home. The remaining years of Hesse’s youth were difficult, and through dealing with these challenges she discovered herself as an artist early in life. The passion and serious attention she gave to her work led her first to Yale and then to playing a central part in the New York art scene of the sixties. Hesse’s cohort, major artists such as Dan Graham, Richard Serra, Nancy Holt, Carl Andre, Robert and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Eva’s husband Tom Doyle and her friend, writer Lucy Lippard, speak candidly and with great passion about the 60’s, Eva’s work and her life.
When Eva Hesse died in May 1970, at 34 years of age from a brain tumor, the life of one of that decade’s most passionate and brilliant artists was tragically cut short. As Jonathon Keats wrote in Art and Antiques Magazine “Yet the end of her life proved to be only the beginning of her career.” Her work is now held by many important museum collections including the Whitney, MoMA, the Hirschhorn, the Pompidou in Paris and London’s Tate Modern and Cologne’s Ludwig Museum.
2016 is proving to be a banner year for Eva Hesse; in addition to the film’s domestic and international release, “Diaries” a book of her journal entries will be published in May by Yale University Press. Also, the artist’s work is included in many landmark exhibitions this year.
EVA HESSE Director’s statement:
I have an abiding interest in the art and life of Eva Hesse. The work moves me deeply in the mysterious way that powerful art can function. It’s hard to categorize; inhabiting a space that moves fluidly between media and ideas. The work made me want to know more about the artist and that led to Lucy Lippard’s “Eva Hesse”, the first book written on the artist after her early death in 1970. This volume includes fragments from Hesse’s unpublished journals and quotes from the single interview she gave in her lifetime.
I connected strongly with the voice and heart that came through in these short quotes and began to search out more material from Hesse’s archive. Like Eva, I also have roots in the European Jewish community, a history that comes with many opportunities as well as inherent challenges. The female perspective is also very strong in her writing as is her ambition and bravery.
No biography in English has been published, so I decided to go visit those unpublished journals at the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio where they are housed. Given a pair of white gloves, I sat for a week in their rare manuscripts library, reading through hundreds of pages. The journals told a deep and compelling story about this remarkable woman’s journey. It was characterized by loss, but more importantly for me, by a triumphant commitment to work and living life to its fullest. By week’s end I had fallen for the woman as I had for the work and began a series of projects of which this film is the latest incarnation.