Saturday 20 June 2020

Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner, London

Ruth Asawa - Untitled - Hanging Sculptures - Different Wires

Earlier this year I visited the David Zwirner Gallery in London to see the Ruth Asawa exhibition - A Line Can Go Anywhere.  Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) was a Japanese American sculptor, educator and arts activist who grew up in California.  Her parents were farm workers.  Following the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, Ruth and her family were interned along with many other Japanese Americans.

Ruth Asawa and Her Wire Scupture 2 - Imogen Cunningham

After her release from internment, she studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Here Asawa was taught by Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller and the mathematician, Max Dehn.  She met many inspiring people at Black Mountain College, including Albert Lanier, an architectural student, who became her husband and with whom she had 6 children.

Ruth Asawa - Untitled - Hanging Sculpture (detail) - Galvanised Steel & Iron Wire
Ruth Asawa - Untitled - Hanging Sculpture - Steel Wire
During a trip to Mexico in 1947 a local craftsman taught Asawa how to create baskets out of wire.  She developed this technique to make her hanging sculptures which take on many shapes and forms. Later, inspired by nature, Asawa developed a new set of tied wire forms.

Ruth Asawa - Untitled - Wall Mounted Sculpture - Bronze Wire

Ruth Asawa - Wintermass - Hanging Sculpture - Stainless Steel Wire Tipped with Resin

Asawa was active in introducing arts education to local schools.  In 1968 she set up the Alvarado School Arts Workshop which brought professional artists into the classroom to teach art, gardening, music and theatre.  It spread throughout San Francisco's public schools.  In the 1980s, she founded a high school for the arts later renamed the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.  In 2009 Ruth's Table was founded in San Francisco to foster opportunites for older adults and adults with disabilities to express their creativity.

Ruth Asawa - Untitled - Freestanding Sculpture - Electroplated Copper Wire

Her wire forms are fascinating and had a look of knitted structures.  It was a great exhibition.

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