Posts Tagged ‘La Verrière’

Art | Hessie: Minimalist Feminist Artist

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Hessie in New York, 1960s
Courtesy Domingo Djuric

Soft résistance
La Verrière / Fondation d’entreprise Hermès
Brussels | Belgium
7 October > 10 December 2016

Untitled, 1968/1970
Embroidery in pink thread
on paper, two needles

In 1962, seeking to develop her artistic career, a strong-minded and adventurous, black 26 year-old named Carmen Lydia Djuric left her Cuban birthplace and went to live in New York. Having become involved in the thriving art and feminist scene there, she met Montenegrin artist Miodrag Duric, known as Dado, three years her senior. Dado was a protégé of the French artist Jean Dubuffet, and was on a three-month visit to the city. Carmen and Dado fell in love and married. The couple returned together to France and set up home in a converted mill in a small village outside of Paris.

Les Trous (Holes), 1973
Embroidery in blue thread
on perforations in cotton canvas

Untitled, 1990
Coloured fabric and white thread

Grillage (Grid form), 1976
Embroidery in blue, grey and
turquoise thread on cotton canvas

The minimalist work Hessie had encountered in New York was most often produced by male artists, and struck her as authoritarian, monumental and frankly, too masculine for her tastes. In protest, she opted for a softer and freer sort of minimalism, more in tune with her own anti-authoritarian principles, that nevertheless employed a strict economy of means to maximum effect, and began to produce works with the lightest of touch that drew on the craft tradition. Embroidery constitutes the major part of her seductive, rigorous and repetitive compositions of geometric designs in white or coloured thread on unbleached cotton canvas. Given functional, descriptive titles: Grillages (grid forms), Bâtons pédagogiques (teaching sticks), Végétation or Machines à écrire (typewriters), more rarely, her works feature stitched-on buttons, holes, typewritten letters and printed ephemera.

Coming to prominence with the French feminist movement of the 1970s, Hessie earned herself a solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1975, after which she was included in Combative Acts, Profile and Voices – An Exhibition of Women Artists from Paris, at New York’s AIR Gallery in 1976.

Déchets collages grillage
(‘Waste paper collages grid form’),
Wrapping paper/packaging stitched
on to cotton canvas

Untitled, 1970
Metal and plastic elements and
a piece of card mounted

Hessie celebrated her 80th birthday this year. Dado, with whom she had five children died in 2010. As minimalism went out of fashion in the late 1970s, and feminism lost its provocative edge, Hessie’s popularity as an artist gradually diminished. However, a major revival of interest in her work – although salvageable, much of it had been badly-stored for many years at the mill – was triggered in 2009, when she was given a solo show at the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Paris). The same year Hessie was included in elles@centrepompidou, Women artists in the collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne. She is represented by Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre (Paris), which, last year, showed her retrospective Survival Art 1969 > 2015.

Hessie: Soft résistance at La Verrière / Fondation d’entreprise Hermès is the second exhibition in the Ballistic Poetry series, devoted to exploration of the disconnection between intention and intuition in certain forms of radical abstraction.

All works by Hessie
Images courtesy Fondation d’entreprise Hermès
All photos of works by Béatrice Hatala © Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre

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