Andrea Rosen

Willem de Kooning / Lucio Fontana / Eva Hesse

25 Oct - 06 Dec 2008

© Eva Hesse
No title, c. 1962
Oil on canvas
49.5 x 49.5 inches / (125.7 x 125.7 cm)

In cooperation with
The Willem de Kooning Foundation
and The Estate of Eva Hesse

October 25 - December 6, 2008
Main Gallery

This exhibition is accompanied by three commissioned texts:
Suzanne Hudson: "Style is a fraud": de Kooning after de Kooning
Raffaele Bedarida: "Bourgeois? Never!" Fontana Contended in the Late 1930s
Helen Molesworth: Don't Look Back: Eva Hesse's Early Work

Andrea Rosen Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of oil on paper works by Willem de Kooning, "baroque" ceramic sculpture by Lucio Fontana, and Eva Hesse paintings from the 1960s. These are works absorbed in their media and the intrinsic risk in the physical engagement of making. In selecting these specific pieces from these particular bodies of work within each of the artists' oeuvres and in placing them in dialogue with each other, we hope to create an opportunity to expand our understanding not only of each artist but also of how these artists relate to one another. It is compelling to recognize that we as viewers are more able to expand our perception, with broader leaps, when we have pre-validated the artists at whose work we are looking; affording us to think more about nuance. Presenting perhaps lesser known works by such influential artists upends our usual assumptions and base of knowledge, allowing us to reevaluate our own ideas about this work and affords the challenge and the pleasure of grappling with ideas and the ever-changing web of art history.
While each of the artists in this exhibition retains his or her own territory and may not naturally be seen as of the same school, there are also so many extraordinary similarities that are made manifest in their juxtaposition. All of the works in this exhibition display a sense of violence, uncertainty and aggression, and yet, are bound together by their abundantly joyful palette. Evoking a tension between abstraction and figuration, the figure in all of these works is present as much as it is not. While technically, every Fontana ceramic is a literal depiction of a battle scene, crucifixion, flowers, animals . . . these particular ceramic sculptures, in their dynamic immediacy, raw visceral quality, and hand-hewed gestures, generate a form that is as much an image as it is an abstract trace of the artist's process. Hesse's work in this exhibition were made following a much more figurative body of paintings and just precede her transition to a sculptural practice and like so much painting being made in the early 1960s, have an indebtedness to de Kooning and his ethereal line between abstraction and figuration. As Helen Molesworth astutely notes, Hesse's early production is marked by "jumbles of energetic abstraction held in a kind of violent contrapusto with figuration." While Hesse is known for her sculpture, her facility as a painter is astonishing and certainly equal to if not surpassing other artists working contemporaneously. It is remarkable then that Hesse choose to make "a radical aesthetic break with painting" and yet, as Molesworth argues, "her concerns remained constant." The sense that all of the works in this exhibition represent significant, transitional moments within each artists' entire practice is intentional. It is in times of transition and exploration that artists often reveal their own radical penchant for risk and allow a more open gesture that is at once arresting and fascinating to witness.
One could have easily organized a rote exhibition of the same title with completely different works by these artists examining an affinity of form or subject matter. Our intention was for these subjects to reveal themselves and to allow unspoken relationships to emerge. Fontana's "Crocifisso", 1948 modeled in clay and painted in a lush polychrome glaze could have been paired with de Kooning's crucifixion drawings or his strikingly similar bronze works to which Suzanne Hudson refers in her text, however, we selected a body of painting on paper which, Hudson notes with interest, immediately follows de Kooning's brief five-year encounter with sculpture and "preserve the sensation and bodily impressions of pliant clay." Likewise, Fontana's well-known works like his Cuts or Holes could have been shown with Hesse's sculptures as they were in the seminal 2005 exhibition "Part Object Part Sculpture" at the Wexner Center for the Arts, exploring the idea that the body is connected to objects, and that objects hold a sensory trace of the hand. This exhibition is not only about the pleasure of seeing these correlations in the gallery, but also about providing an opportunity to resource a base of knowledge and allow each viewer to expand his or her experience.

Tags: Lucio Fontana, Eva Hesse, Willem de Kooning