This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Eva Hesse

The too-brief life and career of artist Eva Hesse is explored in heartbreaking documentary

EVA HESSE (Marcie Begleiter, 2016)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Wednesday, May 25, through Thursday, June 9, 3:15 & 8:35

“All of my stakes are in my work. I have given up in all else. I do feel I am an artist, and one of the best. I do, deeply,” German artist Eva Hesse explains in Eva Hesse, the debut feature by Marcie Begleiter, which is being brought back by popular demand for two screenings per day from May 25 through June 9 at Film Forum, following runs there and at Cinema Village. Begleiter, who has previously written the play Meditations: Eva Hesse and directed the short film Eva Hesse, Walking the Edge, examines Hesse’s too-brief life and career, as she dealt with feelings of alienation and deep loss through her art. “The power of her purpose was more important than what was going on in her life,” fellow artist and friend Rosie Goldman points out. Born in Germany in 1936, Hesse was determined to be an artist from an early age, first turning to drawing and painting, then to sculpture. The film features narration taken from Hesse’s journals, interviews, and letters between her, her main confidant, Sol LeWitt, and her father, William; Eva is voiced by Selma Blair, LeWitt by Patrick Kennedy, and William by Bob Balaban. Begleiter speaks with such contemporaries of Hesse’s as Richard Serra, Carl Andre, Nancy Holt, Dan Graham, Mike Todd, Roberth Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, and Hesse’s husband, Tom Doyle, who seems a little too trite given how they eventually parted. She also meets with Whitney curator and Hesse scholar Elisabeth Sussman, photographer Barbara Brown, art writer Lucy Lippard, and Hesse’s sister, Helen Hesse Charash, who sheds light on her sibling’s difficult childhood. But at the center of it all is Hesse’s inspiring art, which challenged the status quo as Expressionism shifted into Minimalism. “I will paint against every rule,” Hesse wrote, and she took that approach with all of her creations, including sculptures made of latex, metal, fiberglass, wire, and other industrial materials. The film firmly sets Hesse within the framework of the tumultuous era in which she worked, the 1960s, a time of great social and artistic change, but she still comes off as a lonely woman who could express herself only through her art. It’s both a sad and exhilarating documentary, a paean to the critical role art can play in life.

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