Art: Vulnerable Ugliness

"I have learned anything is possible...that vision or concept will come through total risk, freedom, discipline. I will do it." When Sculptor Eva Hesse wrote this exalted sentiment three years ago, she was already dying; her larger works had to be executed by student friends at her direction; she did not live to see her reputation expand beyond a small coterie of New York City artists and critics.

Born a Jew in Germany in 1936, wounded by the separation of her parents in America and the later suicide of her mother, Hesse may be said to have been shaped by crisis. Her...

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