Ruth Asawa 1926-2013

While best known for her innovative wire sculptures, Asawa had a deep connection to drawing and painting and often depicted plants, flowers, and other organic forms across her work that spanned fifty years.

Asawa began experimenting with looped wire as a student in the 1940s at the renowned Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The Bauhaus pioneer Josef Albers was among her instructors there and her most important mentor; he had a profound influence on her approach to making art, and her wire sculptures are deeply rooted in his teachings.

Asawa was inspired to begin experimenting with wire during a 1947 trip to Toluca, Mexico, where local craftsmen taught her how to create egg baskets from the material.  

 

Her introduction to visual art would come during a fraught time in her life, but her resilient spirit refused to be defined by negative circumstances. In a recent interview, Chase, the book’s author, emphasized Asawa’s innate ability to create something beautiful out of any situation. “What inspired me the most was her ability to turn swords into plowshares,” Chase said. “Every time life dealt her a blow, she turned it into something wonderful, something creative.”

 

Raised on a farm in Norwalk, California, Asawa had a lifelong love of observing plants and the influence of foliage, flowers, and biomorphic forms manifests throughout her many bodies of work. Like her wire sculptures, Asawa’s prints and works on paper are often built on simple, repeated gestures that accumulate into complex compositions, typically engaging directly with the natural world and its forms. Across these works, plants and flowers are a recurring motif which Asawa drew from life in order to study their structure.