Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa

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By Studio Marcus Hay / Published by Studio Marcus Hay
Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa

Here at SMH, INC we have always been fascinated by the work of American Japanese artist Ruth Asawa whose work came into prominence in the 1950’s with her famous wire sculptures. Asawa experimented with crocheted wire sculptures of abstract forms that appear as three-dimensional line drawings. She learned the basic technique while in Toluca, Mexico, where villagers used a similar technique to make baskets from galvanized wire. In 1962, Asawa also began experimenting with tied wire sculptures of images rooted in nature, geometry, and abstraction. 

 She lived most of her life and passed away in San Francisco in California where she was known as the Fountain Lady due to all her public works around the city. 

 When Ruth was 16, she and her family were interned along with 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry who lived along the West Coast of the United States. For many, the upheaval of losing everything, most importantly their right to freedom and a private, family life, caused irreparable harm. For Ruth, the internment was the first step on a journey to a world of art that profoundly changed who she was and what she thought was possible in life. In 1994, when she was 68 years old, she reflected on the experience: "I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am." 

 Asawa studied at The Black Mountain College, she studied with one of the most important teachers in American Art. His name was Josef Albers who was associated with the Bauhaus movemet. The most important lesson she learned from Albers was to experiment with materials. 

"The artist must discover the uniqueness and integrity of the material." We love the organic nature of her pieces, they look particularly beautiful when seen in shadow on a wall or en masse.


Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa - Photo 1 of 5 - Left: Untitled, 1956, Right: Portrait of Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham

Left: Untitled, 1956, Right: Portrait of Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham


Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa - Photo 2 of 5 - Left: Untitled 1950-55, Right: Portrait of Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham

Left: Untitled 1950-55, Right: Portrait of Ruth Asawa by Imogen Cunningham


Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa - Photo 3 of 5 - Left: Sketch by Ruth Asawa, Right: Clockwise: Tied, Photo of Ruth and her children by Imogen Cunningham, Ruth in her home, phot by Imogen Cunnningham, Untiled, 1950's

Left: Sketch by Ruth Asawa, Right: Clockwise: Tied, Photo of Ruth and her children by Imogen Cunningham, Ruth in her home, phot by Imogen Cunnningham, Untiled, 1950's


Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa - Photo 4 of 5 - Left: Bowl, 1950's, Right: Portrait by Imogen Cunnningham

Left: Bowl, 1950's, Right: Portrait by Imogen Cunnningham

Inspiring Icons / Ruth Asawa - Photo 5 of 5 - Left: Clockwise: Portrait by Imogen Cunningham, Scultures from 1950's, Photo of Ruth in her studio by Imogen Cunningham

Left: Clockwise: Portrait by Imogen Cunningham, Scultures from 1950's, Photo of Ruth in her studio by Imogen Cunningham

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