Taking the wire for a walk: the subversively domestic sculpture of Ruth Asawa
Known for her intricate and dynamic wire sculptures, the American sculptor, educator and arts activist Ruth Asawa challenged conventional notions of material and form through her emphasis on lightness and transparency.
Asawa began her now iconic looped-wire works in the late 1940s while still a student at Black Mountain College. Their unique structure was inspired by a 1947 trip to Mexico, during which local craftsmen taught her how to create baskets out of wire. While seemingly unrelated to the lessons of color and composition taught in Josef Albers’ legendary Basic Design course, these works, as she explained, are firmly grounded in his teachings in their use of unexpected materials and their elision of figure and ground.
Presenting an important and timely overview of the artist’s work, this monograph brings together a broad selection of her sculptures, works on paper and more. Together they demonstrate the centrality of Asawa’s innovative practice to the art-historical legacy of the 20th century. In addition to an incredible group of photographs of the artist and her work by Imogen Cunningham, a selection of rare archival materials illustrates a chronology of the artist’s life and work. Also featured is an extensive text by Tiffany Bell that explores the artist’s influences, history, and, most importantly, the work itself, as well as a significant essay by Robert Storr discussing Asawa’s work in relation to mid-20th century art history, culture and scientific theory.
Born in Norwalk, California, to Japanese immigrants, Ruth Asawa (1926–2013) enrolled in Milwaukee State Teachers College in 1943, but was unable to receive her degree due to continued hostility against Japanese Americans. In 1946, Asawa began to study at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she absorbed the vital teachings and influences of Josef and Anni Albers, Buckminster Fuller and Merce Cunningham, among others, and embraced her own vocation as an artist. Asawa died in August 2013, at the age of 87, at her home in San Francisco.