The Hamburg-born Eva Hesse (1936–70) was possessed of a lithe hand and a determined work ethic: a page from a German schedule planner is covered with tiny sketches of flaccid shapes hanging from central points; four ruled yellow notebook sheets are filled with pencil drawings of suspended totems, flared like bones where they abut one another. These quick studies reveal a restless artist caught up in the rigor of her adopted land’s minimal and “process art” movements, to which she brought humor (no such visual detumescence was allowed by those macho abstract expressionists of the ’50s) and warmth (many drawings contain lively, colorful, biomorphic forms). In a 1960 ink drawing, lines fall, gather, twist, and trail downward like a flowing veil; in others, geometric shapes are softened by gradations of light. This superb installation of rough ‘n’ ready studies reveals Hesse’s thought processes and confirms that, despite her premature death from brain cancer, her work has given generations of artists fecund ground from which to grow.
Capsules: Eva Hesse: Sculpture
In addition to the drawing show above, Hesse’s art is being celebrated uptown.
Rope Piece, 1970 (the year Hesse died, at age 34), is suspended by wires: Lengths of rope of varying strand widths, covered with latex, create bowed lines spanning knotted, gloppy intersections. This congealed, scraggly web is improbably, poignantly lovely. Other works feature tubes or stubby columns of translucent fiberglass and polyester resin, industrial materials Hesse imbued with an organic, welcoming presence. Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave, 212-423-3200. Through Sept 17
Holzer enlarges government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and prints them in various colors on linen: A “Wish List” from U.S. interrogators includes “Phone Book Strikes,” “Low Voltage Electrocution,” and “Closed Fist Strikes,” in white type on a black ground; broad dark swaths obliterate all but the letterhead (“The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff”) and opening graf (“Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense”) of a four-page document. These heavily redacted directives, transcripts, and surveillance files (painter Alice Neel associated with commies!) reveal the cold face of realpolitik made more fearsome by Magic Marker deletions. Cheim & Read, 547 W 25th, 212-242-7727. Through June 17
“The Other Side”
A greatest-hits show of death and calamity: Three Warhol silk screens, all atrociously printed—part of the point—feature Lugosi’s Dracula, Cagney facing down a machine gun, and an anonymous suicide leap; Christopher Wool contributes a huge vertical stencil reading, “RI/OT”; Richard Prince gives us photos of biker maidens’ large bosoms sporting skulls and such bons mots as “Fuck Off & Die!” Quaff a fistful of reds and get in the spirit of two dozen A-listers living for the dark side. Tony Shafrazi, 544 W 26th, 212-274-9300. Through June 30
These vintage black-and-white photographs (1952–64) of Hong Kong feature peasants residing in cramped neighborhoods. The brilliant compositions emphasize gritty light that cascades down broad concrete staircases, filters between teetering shacks, and traces the long, weathered curves of streetcar tracks; buildings are flattened by gray haze, laundry flutters like abstract swans. Shadows zigzag harshly, lending everything an air of grim, yet beautiful, theatricality. Laurence Miller, 20 W 57th, 212-397-3930. Through June 29
A young black man wearing a suit and high-cut, lace-up dress shoes and seated on a spindly piano stool is drawn in charcoal on large wooden planks hung on the wall; his vintage attire and precarious posture, coupled with an actual rope trailing from the boards to an old-fashioned chair, fill this piece (
Thirteen, 2006) with foreboding. Other portraits—all taken from anonymous, early-20th-century studio photographs of African Americans—are drawn on industrial-size cable spools and are surrounded by found objects such as shell casings and logging saws. Ghostly as tintypes, these enigmatic and at times tragic tableaux powerfully cut through the clatter of our own age. D.C. Moore, 724 Fifth Ave, 212-397-3930. Through June 23
A mysterious pyramid of disaster greets strollers at the southeastern entrance to Central Park: a full-scale section of an apartment building juts diagonally out of the paving stones, asphalt sheets flapping from the triangular slice of roof. Windows piercing the brick walls reveal a jumbled interior spread out below ground: stacks of towels and toilet paper, empty specimen bottles, pencils strung with thread like miniature high-tension wires, a tiny foam-core staircase spiraling up amid spring clamps and a bird’s nest. The blend of homey detail, shifting scale, and architectural detritus is a vision of homeland insecurity. Doris C. Freedman Plaza, 60th & Fifth Ave. Through Oct 29
Two Bridezillas have booked the same slot at the most exclusive Location! Location! Location! ever, and each fabulous reception has been ruined by that other bitch! The remorseless tension of wedding day is manifested in a pair of disembodied bridal gowns facing off against each other, replete with satin heels, frilly undies, aqua garters, and jeweled tiaras: Tulle veils and silk trains are rent and twisted, with even the smallest shred freeze-framed in midair through a matrix of monofilament line, fishing tackle, and stainless-steel hardware—dooming these two society-page wannabes to mortal combat all summer long. Lever House, 390 Park Ave. Through Aug 26