Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, on view at the Blanton February 23 – May 18, 2014, celebrates the close friendship between two of the most significant American artists of the post-war era: Eva Hesse (1936–1970) and Sol LeWitt (1928–2007). Organized by Veronica Roberts, the Blanton’s curator of modern and contemporary art, the exhibition will feature approximately 50 works, including many that have not been publicly exhibited for decades. In this blog post, Veronica shares an exciting discovery that she made while researching these two artists.
I’m always interested in the early lives and day jobs of artists. So often the jobs we hold at formative years in our life end up shaping who we become, even if the career we ultimately settle on feels miles away from our beginnings scooping ice cream or folding clothes. In the chronology I compiled for the Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt exhibition catalogue, I document many of the early jobs that the artists held. Hesse worked various part-time jobs after she graduated from Yale—at a jewelry store in the West Village and as a designer for a major textile company. In the mid-1950s, Sol LeWitt worked in the graphics department of I.M. Pei and Associates, a fledgling, little-known architecture firm at the time. He followed that with several years as a receptionist and “night watchman” at the Museum of Modern Art, an experience he repeatedly credited as a big influence on his life. And Hesse clearly cared about her time at Margaret Moore’s jewelry store enough to give her boss a painting.
What I didn’t realize until working on this exhibition, however, is that in the mid-1950s, before they held any of these other jobs, Hesse and LeWitt both worked simultaneously, but independently, for Seventeen magazine, the first magazine in the United States dedicated specifically to teenagers. In 1953, Hesse interned for the magazine when she was herself a teenager and LeWitt was hired to work on the “Photostat” machine (an early photocopier) and later switched to a higher-paid gig that he loved, doing production for the art department. As part of his job, LeWitt occasionally contributed illustrations to columns. One of my favorites is a drawing he made of a writing desk strewn with ink, stamps, and envelopes for a feature instructing girls on how to write letters to boys. I can’t help but to savor how perfect an assignment this was for Sol, one of the best correspondents I’ve ever known.
While Hesse and LeWitt somehow didn’t meet at this early juncture, I made a startling and happy discovery when I examined the September 1954 issue of Seventeen magazine in the Hesse Archives at Oberlin College. For that issue, Seventeen featured the first article ever published on Hesse—billing her a young artist to watch (smart magazine!) A button-sized drawing of an elaborately decorated birthday cake in the corner of the last page of the essay caught my eye. Beneath the illustration was a very familiar hand-written name: LeWitt. How fitting that these two artists, who went on to become champion pen pals, met on the page before they met in person.
All images courtesy of Seventeen magazine. Seventeen is a registered trademark of Hearst Communications, Inc.