In the summer of 1964, the German-American sculptor Eva Hesse began experiencing a solid case of creative block. She, like many artists before and after her, was in a slump. "One should be content with the process [of making art] as well as the result," she wrote at the time. "I am not."
In an effort to overcome her sudden lack of confidence in herself and her work, she reached out to fellow artist Sol LeWitt. In the spring and summer of 1965, LeWitt, famous for his conceptual murals, sent Hesse the following advice:
"Stop worrying about big deep things," he wrote in a letter. "You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then youʼll be able to DO."
Their correspondence continued:
I want to thank you for your letter. I finished one more. They are good. Iʼm working a third one. Much difficulties, but at least Iʼm pushing, and I will be. I swear it.
Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, rumbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse shitting, hair splitting, nit picking, pisstrickling, nose sticking assgouging, eyeball poking, finger pointing, alleyway sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil eyeing, backscratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself.
Stop it and just do!
The letters between Hesse and LeWitt surfaced as part of a four-year research endeavor, conducted by director and producer Marcie Begleiter and her team. What began as a week spent reading the postminimalist artist's unpublished writing at Allen Memorial Art Museum in Ohio has resulted in "Eva Hesse," a completed, feature-length documentary, set to hit theaters in the U.S. in April of 2016.
The film, produced by Karen Shapiro, tells the story of Hesse, one of the few women recognized as key to the New York art scene in the 1960s, boasting a schedule of over 20 group exhibitions in 1970 alone. Sadly, Hesse died of a brain tumor that year at the age of 34, leaving behind a trove of latex, fiberglass and plastic sculpture that would wind its way to institutions like the Guggenheim, the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art and the Pompidou following her death.
"Eva Hesse," which is currently raising distribution funds on Kickstarter, aims to shed light on Hesse's role in NYC's creative downtown community in particular, linking together her childhood in 1930s Germany with her burgeoning feminist artwork in America. Begleiter interviewed art giants like Richard Serra and Nancy Holt, splicing this footage with archival material from the '60s. Selma Blair provides the narration, comprised primarily of Hesse's own words excerpted from her journals.
"Eva Hesse explores the universal challenge of living an engaged life; a life of courage, discipline and joy even when the world is telling you that you have little chance of success," the Kickstarter campaign explains. "It is a story about art and about life; and how the two combine to create one of the most universal of life’s experiences."
You can read more about the film over on Kickstarter. Check out a preview of the letters between Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse below.
Note: The above are excepts from their correspondence in the Spring/Summer of 1965. They have been edited in the documentary to reflect the conversational nature of the back-and-forth.
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