PRINT May 1997

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About five years ago, Catherine David and I met in my office at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to discuss Eva Hesse. I was writing an essay on the artist’s work for a retrospective at Yale University and she was organizing a Hesse show for the Jeu de Paume. I remember that she proudly announced her show would be different from any exhibition ever done in the United States, since Americans always approach Hesse from a formalist point of view.

That was news to me. Given that the literature on Hesse tended to emphasize biography and psychology at the expense of formal analysis, David’s surprising declaration resonated with the quaint intellectual chauvinism French writers from Simone de Beauvoir to Jean Baudrillard have habitually brought to things American. Their unstated premise: until dignified by Latinate abstractions and slotted into the matrix of current “discourse,” cultural

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