Biography

As a radical feminist artist working in drawing, sculpture, performance, photography and video, Hannah Wilke (b.1940, New York, NY, US; d.1993, Houston, Texas, US) developed a multifaceted practice that challenged dialogues around art and gender. Emerging in the 1960s, in the midst of the women’s liberation movement in the United States, the deeply personal compositions Wilke generated across her career aimed to question prevailing cultural notions about women and female sexuality. ‘Feminism in a larger sense is intrinsically more important than art’, Wilke remarked. The artist’s conceptual works were often intimately bound to her own body, which she used as a tool for exploring issues that related to her experiences as a Jewish American woman. Wilke reflected on her practice as ‘internal wounds, made from external situations.’

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Following her graduation from the Stella Atkins Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Philadelphia, in 1962, Wilke sought to make forms and images that she described as ‘specifically female’ and launched her career with a series of gestural terracotta sculptures that related to the body. First shown in 1966 at the New York City Art Theatre Association and in 1972 at Feigen Downtown, Wilke went on to create these intimately sized objects in clay, ceramic and porcelain across the next two decades.

By the start of the 1970s, she was producing her one-fold sculptures – a series of repeated but unique forms that grew out of her initial abstractions – as well as large-scale latex wall sculptures. These works resulted in Wilke’s first solo exhibitions in 1972 at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, and Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles. She continued to develop her colourful ceramic sculptures in the 1980s, experimenting with Minimalist grid formats and incorporating patterned painted surfaces in vivid hues (‘Generation Process Series’, 1980–82). Wilke also explored her interest in colour and sensuality through pastel and graphite drawings that began during the early stages of her career, in which brightly hued, organic shapes merge with dense planes of pigment.

The body of sculptures produced by Wilke throughout her career made pioneering usage of materials including latex and chewing gum, which were unusual at the time. Cut, folded and stretched by hand, they document the important role played by texture and physicality in relaying the artist’s intentions. In ‘S.O.S. Starification Object Series’ (1974–82), a sequence of photographs which were recorded in her studio, Wilke also created ‘S.O.S.’ performances, in which she manipulated gum chewed by audience members into tactile, vulva-like shapes that she placed all over her body and face. The moulded forms were intended as a device to interrupt the viewer’s desiring gaze, thereby calling attention to the objectification of bodies. When asked why she used untraditional materials, Wilke replied, ‘I chose gum because it’s the perfect metaphor for the American woman – chew her up, get what you want out of her, throw her out and pop in a new piece’.

The 1970s marked an important transitional moment for Wilke, through her ‘performalist self-portraits’, in which she credits those who photographed her. In individual photographic works such as S.O.S. Starification Object Series (1974–75) and So Help Me Hannah (1979), the artist’s nude body takes on continually evolving poses, challenging conventional attributes of the female body. Wilke also navigated these ideas through video and film, with works such as Hannah Wilke through the Large Glass (1977) and Intercourse with… (1977). In her iconic work Gestures (1974), the artist stretches and contorts her face directly at the camera, using her skin as a medium in itself.

Having spent much of her career ‘respecting the objecthood of the body’ – focusing on its presence – Wilke’s later work considered the loss of physicality. She took hundreds of photographs of her mother as she battled terminal illness, some of which she used in In Memoriam: Selma Butter (Mommy) (1979–83). In Portrait of the Artist with Her Mother, Selma Butter (1979–82), the artist drew analogies between her mother’s body and her own. In November 1986, Wilke embarked on a group of abstract watercolours, which she would title the ‘B.C. Series’: self-portraits begun prior to her lymphoma diagnosis in June 1987. In her final work, Intra-Venus (1991–93), Wilke recorded the decline of her body through monumental, colour photographs.

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Works

Untitled, c. 1960s

Charcoal on paper
framed: 85.4 x 73.2 cm (33 5/8 x 28 7/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Untitled, c. 1960

Pastel and paint on paper
framed: 49.5 x 44.7 cm (19 1/2 x 17 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Untitled, c. 1964-66

Pastel and graphite on card
16.5 x 10.2 cm (6 1/2 x 4 in); framed: 44 x 37.8 cm (17 3/8 x 14 7/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Untitled, c. 1964-66

Pastel and pencil on paper
45.7 x 61 cm (18 x 24 in); framed: 69.2 x 83.2 x 4 cm (27 1/4 x 32 3/4 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Gestures, 1974

Lifetime black and white photograph
12 x 17.8 cm (4 3/4 x 7 1/8 in); framed: 32.2 x 36.8 cm (12 5/8 x 14 1/2 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Needed-Erase-Her #12 (TBC), 1974

Kneaded erasers on painted board
34.3 x 34.3 x 5.1 cm (13.51 x 13.51 x 2.01 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

S.O.S Starification Object Series, 1974

Vintage Silver Gelatin Print
framed: 125.8 x 91.5 cm (49 1/2 x 36 1/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

S.O.S. Starification Object Series #4 (Mastication Box), 1975

Chewing gum on rice paper
framed: 86 x 67 cm (33 7/8 x 26 3/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Sea Wall, 1975

25 kneaded erasers, vintage postcard on board
framed: 40 x 45.1 x 7 cm (15 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 2 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Untitled, 1977

Unglazed ceramic (3 gestural fold sculptures)
6.5 x 16.3 x 9.2 cm (2 1/2 x 6 3/8 x 3 5/8 in); 5.5 x 10.5 x 7 cm (2 1/8 x 4 1/8 x 2 3/4 in); 6 x 12.5 x 8 cm (2 3/8 x 4 7/8 x 3 1/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Atrophy, 1978-1984

Lifetime black and white photograph with yellow painted frame
framed: 152.4 x 101.6 cm (60 x 40 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Untitled, c. late 70s

Unglazed ceramic
23 x 57 x 34 cm (9 1/8 x 22 1/2 x 13 3/8 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Generation Process Series, 1982

Acrylic paint on ceramic, wood
overall: 8.9 x 49.5 x 49.5 cm (3 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 19 1/2 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Untitled, 1982

2 unglazed, painted ceramics
5.4 x 8.6 x 4.8 cm (2 1/8 x 3 3/8 x 1 7/8 in); 6 x 9.5 x 5.1 cm (2 3/8 x 3 3/4 x 2 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles. Licensed by VAGA at Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London

Venus Pareve, 1982-84

Liquitex on plaster of Paris
25.5 x 12.7 x 5 cm (10 1/8 x 5 x 2 in)
Courtesy: © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon, and Andrew Scharlatt Licensed by VAGA at Artist Rights Society (ARS) New York, NY

  • Untitled, c. 1960s
  • Untitled, c. 1960
  • Untitled, c. 1964-66
  • Untitled, c. 1964-66
  • Gestures, 1974
  • Needed-Erase-Her #12 (TBC), 1974
  • S.O.S Starification Object Series, 1974
  • S.O.S. Starification Object Series #4 (Mastication Box), 1975
  • Sea Wall, 1975
  • Untitled, 1977
  • Atrophy, 1978-1984
  • Untitled, c. late 70s
  • Generation Process Series, 1982
  • Untitled, 1982
  • Venus Pareve, 1982-84

Press

Hannah Wilke: Living As Art

Anne Boyer, Art in America

October 2021

The Willful Jouissance of Hannah Wilke

Eileen G’Sell, Hyperallergic

August 2021

Two Artists’ Divergent Roads to Eros

Daphne Merkin, The New York Times

June 2021

Hannah Wilke’s work laid bare at the Pulitzer Art Foundation

Hilarie M. Sheets, The Art Newspaper

June 2021

The Erotic Affinities between Eva Hesse and Hannah Wilke

Cassie Packard, frieze

June 2021

Two Paths for Erotic Sculpture

Sophie Madeline Dess, The New Republic

May 2021

The Super-Gallerist Putting Women in the Picture

Francesca Gavin, Financial Times

November 2020

In Pictures: Eva Hesse and Hannah Wilke

Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper

June 2020

Unknown Photos by Hannah Wilke Debut at Temple University

Peter Crimmins, WHYY

April 2019

Review: A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, Muzeum Susch

Kasia Redzisz and Francesco Tenaglia, Mousse

March 2019

Hannah Wilke’s Naked Crusade to Subvert the Patriarchy

Hannah Williams, Artsy

January 2019

Yonic Forms in Chewing Gum

Hannah Tindle, AnOther

October 2018

What it Means to Be a Woman Artist

Caroline Marciniak, frieze

October 2018

Eschewing the Male Gaze

Joseph Bobowicz, Hero

September 2018

Review: Hannah Wilke, Tibor de Nagy

Alex Fialho, Artforum

January 2015

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques Gallery

Paige K. Bradley, Artforum

October 2014

Object/Self

Francis Frascina, Art Monthly

April 2014

Review: Body I Am, Alison Jacques Gallery

Cherry Smyth, Art Monthly

March 2013

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques Gallery

Griselda Pollock, Art Monthly

September 2010

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques Gallery

Anthony Byrt, Artforum

July 2010

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques Gallery

Laura McLean-Ferris, The Independent

July 2010

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques Gallery

Maria Walsh, Art Monthly

December 2009

An Artist’s Roots in Sculpture, Reclaimed

Benjamin Genocchio, The New York Times

October 2008

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques Gallery

Maria Walsh, Art Monthly

October 2007

Review: Hannah Wilke, Alison Jacques

Bart Van Der Heide, frieze

September 2007

Review: Hannah Wilke, Solway Jones

Leslie Dick, X-Tra

June 2004

Review: Hannah Wilke, Ronald Feldman Gallery

Nancy Princenthal, Art in America

February 1997

Whose Image Is It?

Anne Sargent Wooster, High Performance

August 1990

Interview: Hannah Wilke

Ruth Iskin, Visual Dialog

June 1977

Interview: Hannah Wilke

Lil Picard, Interview

January 1973

Exhibitions

Hannah Wilke

27 September21 December 2018

Books

Hannah Wilke: Art for Life’s Sake

Princeton University Press

2021

Hannah Wilke: Sculpture in the Landscape

Temple Contemporary

2019

A Breathed Yes

Marsie Scharlatt and Hannah Wilke

2017

Hannah Wilke: Sculpture 1960s–80s

Alison Jacques Gallery

2014

Hannah Wilke

Nancy Princenthal

2010

Hannah Wilke: Gestures

Neuberger Museum of Art

2009

Hannah Wilke: Selected Work 1960 – 1992

SolwayJones

2004

Hannah Wilke: 1940 – 1993

nGbK

2000

Intra Venus

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

1995

Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective

Joanna Frueh

1989

News

Hannah Wilke: Art for Life’s Sake

Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Missouri

Amy Bessone, Takuro Kuwata & Hannah Wilke

in ‘Cracked’, Tristan Hoare Gallery, London

Hannah Wilke

in ‘Eva Hesse / Hannah Wilke: Erotic Abstraction’, Acquavella Galleries, New York

Audio Tour: Hannah Wilke

Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis

Nicola L. & Hannah Wilke

in ‘She-Bam Pow POP Wizz ! The Amazons of POP’, MAMAC, Nice

Ana Mendieta & Hannah Wilke

in ‘Idea Art’, MoMA New York

Hannah Wilke

in ‘Monster/Beauty: An Exploration of the Female/Femme Gaze’, Lychee One, London

Birgit Jürgenssen, Ana Mendieta & Hannah Wilke

in ‘FEMINISMS!’, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

Hannah Wilke

in ‘The World Exists to Be Put on a Postcard’, British Museum, London

Hannah Wilke: Sculpture in the Landscape

Temple Contemporary, Philadelphia

Maria Bartuszová, Birgit Jürgenssen & Hannah Wilke

in ‘A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women’, Muzeum Susch, Switzerland

Hannah Wilke

in ‘Ecstasy’, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart

Hannah Wilke

in ‘Zéro De Conduite’, Serralves Museum, Porto

Maria Bartuszová, Birgit Jürgenssen, Michelle Stuart, Dorothea Tanning & Hannah Wilke

in ‘Virginia Woolf’, Tate St Ives, Cornwall

Ana Mendieta & Hannah Wilke

in ‘Delirious’, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York