Eva Hesse (January 11, 1936 – May 29, 1970) was a German-born American sculptor known for her pioneering work in materials such as latex, fiberglass, and plastics. She is one of the artists who ushered in the postminimal art movement in the 1960s.
Hesse was born into a family of observant Jews in Hamburg, Germany, on January 11, 1936. When Hesse was two years old in December 1938, her parents, hoping to flee from Nazi Germany, sent Hesse and her older sister, Helen Hesse Charash, to the Netherlands to escape Nazi Germany. They were aboard one of the last Kindertransport trains.
Hesse’s early work (1960–65) consisted primarily of abstract drawings and paintings. She is better known for her sculptures and because of this, her drawings are often regarded as preliminary steps to her later work. However, she created most of her drawings as a separate body of work. She stated, “they were related because they were mine but they weren’t related in one completing the other.
Hesse’s work often shows minimal physical manipulation of a material while simultaneously completely transforming the meaning it conveys. This simplicity and complexity has evoked controversy among art historians. Debate has focussed on which pieces should be considered complete and finished works, and which are studies, sketches, or models for future works.