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For years, Hessie has worked tirelessly on what La Verrière’s curator, Guillaume Désanges, calls ‘an ambitious labour of personal ethics and aesthetics’. Now, the Foundation’s Brussels art space devotes a solo exhibition to the intense, painstaking work of this elusive, little-known artist.
In the 1960s, several artists engaged in a feminist reappropriation of stitchwork, to create new pieces in a spirit of ‘necessity, homage and irony’. Among them was Hessie (born in the Caribbean in 1936), whose highly physical engagement with her practice produced an abstract, textile oeuvre of considerable power and intensity, despite its inherent fragility. Contributing to the recent rediscovery of Hessie’s work, La Verrière presents the artist’s first solo exhibition in Belgium.
Expanses of ecru cotton canvas feature abstract geometric or organic motifs stitched in white or coloured thread. Occasionally, words or buttons are used, and collage, even holes. At the crossroads of minimalism and artisanship, Hessie’s repertoire of forms is organised into series. The medium of embroidery unites humility and radical autonomy; its programmatic dimension is transcended by the artist’s sensitive practice, based on a rigorous economy of means. This ‘soft resistance’, evoked in the title, becomes the latest oxymoron in Guillaume Désanges’s exhibition series Ballistic Poetry.
At La Verrière, Hessie’s self-styled ‘Survival Art’ is celebrated for its delicacy and tenacity. Appropriately, for an oeuvre exploring the nature of evanescence, many of her pieces came close to being lost altogether. ‘The sometimes damaged fabrics have been recently restored,’ says Guillaume Désanges, ‘but they retain the trace of their own story, marked by a form of clandestine creativity. Their visual power is intact.’ Working resolutely on the margins, Hessie’s uncompromising approach has brought her widespread acclaim today.
La Verrière / Fondation d’entreprise Hermès
50, boulevard de Waterloo – 1000 Brussels
Free admission Monday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Curator: Guillaume Désanges
Cultural mediation: Audrey Cottin +32 4 71 44 81 50 / email@example.com