New Addison Exhibit Studies Friendship Between Famed Artists

At the very top of a white wall in the Addison Gallery of American Art, an irregular and uneven black line crosses the surface and begins Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #797.” Underneath this first line is another, but drawn by a different person and in a different color. Several people continued to copy the undulating line down the wall, alternating between red, yellow and blue lines. Although LeWitt designed the piece’s pattern, “Wall Drawing #797” can be installed anywhere using instructions written by LeWitt. Several staff members at the Addison Gallery of American Art worked together this summer to assemble “Wall Drawing #797” for “Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt,” a new exhibit at the Addison.

“I love [‘Wall Drawing #797’]. It’s almost a group portrait in that everybody’s hand made a different mark, and it changed. We thought we were following each other perfectly but we weren’t, and that’s what made this beautiful undulating pattern. So I love the idea that there’s geometry and minimalism, which is supposedly completely objective, but this has such a handmade, human quality,” said Kemmerer.

Organized by the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, T.X., “Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt” is a traveling exhibit that opened last Thursday at the Addison. It features works by the two artists, Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, and highlights the ways in which they influence each other’s art.

“We really love the idea [of bringing ‘Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt’ to the Addison] because we have a long history with [LeWitt]… He worked closely with [the Addison], and we had already had a lot of his work in our collection… He’s a really important artist for us personally but also just in art history in general. And [Hesse] is someone we’ve long admired, but we have [none of her work] so this was a great way to share with our audiences and ourselves the work of two people that mean a lot to us in very different ways,” said Allison Kemmerer, Curator of Art after 1950 and of Photography at the Addison.

Hesse and LeWitt met as young artists in the 1960s and became close friends. They were members of a new generation of artists that were shifting away from Abstract Expressionism, a style that emphasized spontaneous, emotion-driven artwork, and into experimentation with art as a tangible object related to the space it occupies. Although their art styles differed greatly – Hesse was more expressive and emotional and LeWitt was more deliberate and focused on precision – the two heavily influenced each other’s work.

“The overall goal [of this exhibit] is for people to walk away with a deeper sense [or] understanding of each of these artists’ work. This exhibition allows viewers to do so by considering both LeWitt and Hesse’s art within the context of their friendship and influence on each other,” said Kemmerer.

Also in the exhibit are Eva Hesse’s untitled graph paper drawings that carry hints of LeWitt’s influence. The four drawings feature series of minute “x”s and “o”s drawn in the small boxes of graph paper. Together, the “x”s and “o”s form squares and rectangles. Hesse drew the “x”s and “o”s with differing amounts of pressure, making certain parts of the rectangles appear darker or lighter.

“[The piece is] very geometric. It’s the grid which [Hesse has] completely taken [from LeWitt], who is all about the grid. She’s taking his motif as a point of departure, but, again, it’s still that hand-drawn quality with these tiny little “x”s and “o”s she fills it with. It still has that crafted feeling. It doesn’t have the objectivity that so much his work seemed to have,” said Kemmerer.

“Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt” will be on view until January 3, 2016.