In the four decades since her untimely death at age thirty-four, Eva Hesse (1936–1970) has become internationally renowned for the sculptural assemblages she made beginning in the mid-1960s. Eva Hesse Spectres 1960 presents for the first time a group of eighteen oil paintings created when Hesse was just twenty-four years old. Composed of two bodies of work, the Spectres paintings present a young painter establishing her own creative identity. The first group of intimately scaled paintings features loosely rendered groups of figures related yet spatially disconnected from one another. A group of larger paintings presents odd, otherworldly creatures that bear a distinct resemblance to the artist herself.
Eva Hesse Spectres 1960 focuses on what curator E. Luanne McKinnon calls Hesse's "spectre" paintings. The term refers to an "image or apparition," which describes both the temperament of these works as well as Hesse's examination of herself at this critical point in her maturation as an artist. The exhibition considers these evocative works not merely as self-portraits but as explorations of states of consciousness. Working against critical commentary that has dismissed the paintings as abject exercises in self-deprecation, this exhibition examines them as a testimony to the artist’s private struggles and professional aspirations.