Repetition as a formal and conceptual strategy has been employed by artist Eva Hesse (1936-1970) throughout her career with series of drawings on graph paper. Repeating shapes (as circles or x’s filling tiny squares) served to emphasize accumulation, avoiding the rationality of other Minimal artists, and taking on a more obsessive, introspective quality.
This is especially visible in the use of the grid as a structural and logic system, only to be contrasted by subtle tone variations determined by the pressure on paper. The strict determinism of graph paper is thus opposed to the impresicion of the hand, obtaining an energetic quality that was clearly underlined by Lucy Lippard:
When she arrived at the circles, a motif already present in the three dimensional work, she may have missed the freedom of the more automatic imagery she had always used, but this could not have lasted long, since she extracted from this very simple formula – primarily rows of circles with or without centres – an endless internal vitality that made each one different (Lucy R. Lippard, Eva Hesse)
In fact, Hesse illustrated her interest in repetion of forms and working methods, declaring that “repetition does enlarge or increase or exaggerate an idea or purpose in a statement”. The expression of a sense of absurdity is developed through the creation of an ordered system in which the repeated forms never completely adhere or fall rationally, thus expressing an interior condition or feeling of confusion.
As pointed out by Lucy Lippard, the washed drawings and reliefs, made of variants of circles on serial arrangements, show the varied influences Jasper Johns, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd and Agnes Martin had on the young artist, especially in her approach to structure and grid arrangements.
The following drawings are taken from the catalog of “Eva Hesse. Drawing“, an exhibition held on 2006 at the Drawing Center, co-curated by Catherine de Zegher and Elisabeth Sussman, Curator and Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at The Whitney Museum of American Art
Notations, about drawing. Eva Hesse, by Jennifer Padgett
Eva Hesse Drawing Exhibition Reveals Artist’s Fascinating Working Process (Walker Art Center)
Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1967. Catalogue entry, Tate Modern