American, born Germany, 1936–1970
Aluminum with rubber tubing
36.5 x 36 x 23 cm
Gift of Helen and Murray Charash, New Jersey, to American Friends of the Israel Museum
Accession number: B78.0255
Hesse’s work embodies contradiction. She once said that her aim was to create both “nothing” and “something.” Torn between her Abstract Expressionist tendencies and the influence of Josef Albers, with whom she studied at Yale, Hesse found a unique way to combine emotional expression and Minimalist aesthetics. She believed that “being an artist means to see, to observe, to investigate. . . . I paint what I see and feel, to express life in all its reality and movement” (quoted in “It’s All Yours,” Seventeen [September 1954]: 140–41).
Accession I served as the prototype for a sequence of four additional works. At first glance, the piece – an open box reminiscent of an industrial container – seems to adopt a masculine Minimalist language related to that of Hesse’s contemporaries and friends Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. But coming closer, we discover the vibrant, tactile experience aroused by the work. Focusing on process and experimentation, Hesse made innovative use of unconventional materials, such as rubber and latex. In Accession I, she altered the basic metal substrate manually, by means of a traditional feminine craft: she wove hundreds of short rubber tubes through the holes in the sides and bottom of the structure. Staring down into the interior, we are mesmerized by the pulsing congestion of silver-gray tubes that brings the box to life.