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Son of May
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Eva Hesse studied painting with Rico Lebrun, at Yale University, where he hung a curtain-draped room with paintings of stacked corpses in Nazi death-camps. She studied in a building designed by Lewis Kahn, American-Jewish, a building which was a liberal arts education in itself. Eva married Tom Doyle, a sculptor who used cantilevers, an image used in the film, "Vertigo": "No shoulder straps, no back straps, but it does everything a brassiere should do. Works on the principle of the cantilevered bridge." The cantilever in "Vertigo" is the persona "Madeleine" held up in front of Judy Barton, an image of a woman with no foundation underneath the image. Tom Doyle wrote: "To cantilever forms into space, to make them freestanding without obvious supports, has been one of my constant preoccupations. To make heavy forms float or dance in space defying gravity, with a tenuous balance, is the major concern of truly `structural' sculpture." Tom married Eva Hesse, who, born in Hamburg, Germany, 1936, had been removed from the support of her Fatherland and Mothertongue and cantilevered into or over the United States. She was not supported from a foundation in Hamburg, Germany, and had no "obvious support." At the same time, events in Germany could not claim support from a foundation in historical events. An American ideology was cantilevered over Germany from the West, Stalinist communist ideology cantilevered over Germany from the East: German politics suffered problems of authenticity. By 1964-1965, the German government was preparing an ambassador to send to Israel, against severe and dramatic protests. When German art-world people invited Tom Doyle to Germany, they invited Tom because he was married to a German-born Jew. They and Swiss-German Harald Szeeman exhibited Eva's work, in order to exhibit Eva, who was taken around Europe to a variety of shows. Much of the art curated by Szeeman was about using objects which had had original purposes imposed on the materials, and then denying that purpose with an aesthetic purpose, as with Marcel Duchamp's urinal. The themes began with Immanuel Kant and the purposeless purpose of works of visual art, with then themes and variations of aesthetic and technological purposes twisting and turning through German art. By 1965, when women had long been challenged by technology and technological values, which seemed for them not to overlap aesthetic values, some challenged women artists began to challenge the values and meanings of technology and industrial operations. An effect was to open questions of a poetics and aesthetics of technology -- functionalisms and operationalisms -- for women who as artists worked to construct images of the values and meanings on behalf of which they tried to live. Understanding Eva Hesse as a woman and as an artist requires understanding that her loss of a foundation in Germany made her apt for Germany, which had lost its foundations. The image and idea of foundation is a sentimentality that distorts much Euro-critical-philosophy. In my image, Eva became a cantilevered woman who was held out over Germany as a German-born Jewish woman whose arrival validated a new Germany, constructing itself not from ancient German foundations with values which had been disqualified, but from ideologies supported to West and East. This book contributes to the study of Eva Hesse with earnest and worthy essays which enhance the consensus, while leaving room for the reader to appreciate the radical aesthetic axioms of a woman who, having punctured false illusions, and even aesthetic illusions, showed how, without foundations, to construct out of destructions. Eva Hesse's work continues to challenge, and this book responds to her challenges.