The works are, for the most part, nonrepresentational. What they are, I can't say. My literary brain wanted each piece to be accompanied by a small text, to flesh them out, to put them in context. Context=with text. Context: con (together) text (to weave). But then the left brain calmed down, and I realized we are not meant to have an intellectual connection, we are meant to have a visceral one. In the accompanying booklet Briony Fer, the co-curator for the show, writes, "Hesse's work is full of allusions to the body without being a conventional depiction of the body." Fer's words reinforce the idea that the works are not literal in any way.
When I think of books, I instinctively want words inside. But after seeing this exhibit, I now wonder what kinds of colors and images can produce meaning on a level just under the surface, maybe resonating somewhere in the body. In Oakland, at Mills College Library in the Special Collections department you can visit and request to see a book by Brighton Press called The Blue Vein which has a similar quality. The pages are hand dyed in blues, browns, and greens by Merilyn Britt, with etchings by Michele Burgess, and the book contains a minimum of text, a few lines on a page of a poem by Sandra Alcosser. The variegated dyes and the rich etchings are satisfying on that deep level. You can see pictures and read a description of it here. (But much better to see it and hold it yourself if you get a chance.)
I am always pleased when I leave an exhibit energized, my fingers itching to make something. I finally spent time in my own studio this past weekend and was surprised at what I made there after pulling out canvas, muslin, acrylic inks, linen thread, and heavy gel medium. Eva Hesse's small works gave me two challenges: to make silent books using texture and materials to speak, and to make books that are an extension of the body.
|Handle with Gloves: Twelve Readings, 2011|