A perfect antidote to Jeff Koons’s commodities-trader-turned-artist-turned-curator extravaganza is an exhibition of 14 never-before-seen works by the late Eva Hesse at relative Gotham newcomers Hauser & Wirth. Hesse, the artist who did the most to breathe inner life into minimalism’s cutting rigidities, was committed to a process that opened up space for constant artistic experimentation. To a question about whether her efforts were sculpture, she responded with oracular directness: “A lot of it could be called nothing—a thing or an object or any word you want to give it.”
Largely improvisational, remarkably fragile somethings—or, better yet, some things—are what one finds on view uptown, laid out like unassuming Munchos chips on a long white trestle. Mostly untitled, curved shapes made from unstable combinations of paper, tape, cheesecloth, and adhesive, these yellowing, 40-year-old-plus sculptures present a view of art that, in a real sense, is both barely and stubbornly there.
Take the smallest untitled sculpture in the room: Part child’s boat, part futuristic Dr. Scholl’s pad, it teeters on the edge of transformation, like a tadpole in a pond. One’s nostril breath can send it flying. Just the thought of it is wicked, and frightening, and subversive—and, above all, category jarring. A provocation to think, not shock, the wispy object, in the here and now, could not possibly prove more exciting.