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Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)
Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)
Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)
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Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)
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Property from the Collection of Marilyn and Herbert Fischbach
Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)

Untitled (S. 846, Freestanding Tied-Wire, Closed Center, Six-Branched Tree Form)

Details
Ruth Asawa (1926-2013)
Untitled (S. 846, Freestanding Tied-Wire, Closed Center, Six-Branched Tree Form)
galvanized steel wire and steel mount on redwood base
sculpture: 30 x 39 x 40 in. (76.2 x 99.1 x 101.6 cm.)
overall: 36 x 39 x 40 in. (91.4 x 99.1 x 101.6 cm.)
Executed in 1963.
Provenance
Marilyn and Herbert Fischbach, New York, acquired directly from the artist, 1963
By descent from the above to the present owner

Brought to you by

Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Associate Vice President, Specialist

Lot Essay

Ruth Asawa, born in California in 1926 to Japanese-American immigrant farmers, developed early in life an intimate relationship to nature. During a trip to Mexico in 1947, she learned a basket crocheting technique from a local craftsman. She further developed this technique while at Black Mountain College to make her tied-wire, biomorphic forms – an innovation strongly encouraged by her mentor, Josef Albers. For most of her career, Asawa’s imagery tended toward naturalistic, botanical and arboreal configurations and motifs. Simultaneously malleable and rigid, wire was Asawa’s material of choice, and it forged a path that set her apart from her contemporaries.

After building a bi-coastal career for herself in the 1950s, Asawa departed from Peridot Gallery in New York City in 1960, following six years of representation and three solo exhibitions. California became the epicenter for both her family and her art, with only very occasional connections in the larger American art market.

Fischbach Gallery opened its Madison Avenue doors in 1960. The gallery’s reputation of cutting-edge, boundary-breaking programming was led by founder Marilyn Cole Fischbach’s unwavering vision and discerning eye. Marilyn is celebrated for many firsts in the New York art scene, including the revolutionary group exhibition Eccentric Abstraction in 1966, coined as the first exhibition of Postminimal art, as well as Chain Polymers in 1968, Eva Hesse’s only solo exhibition of sculptural work in her lifetime in the United States. Marilyn’s husband Herbert Fischbach, a New York City executive, shared her same fervor and passion for the arts. Together they raised their family surrounded by art and culture, and dedicated their time as patrons and supporters of the arts. It is no surprise that the Fischbachs were drawn to the entirely unique, material-driven work of Ruth Asawa. Letters from the 1960s reveal the relationship that Marilyn and Herbert Fischbach and Asawa developed, documenting exchanges about her artistic process as well as a visit that Herbert took to Asawa’s studio in San Francisco.

In 1962, Asawa was given the gift of a desert plant in the hopes that she would enjoy drawing it. “The tumbleweed-like growth, bristling with branches, fascinated Ruth. But its structure was so complex, it eluded her pen” (M. Chase, Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa, San Francisco, 2020, p. 99). Instead, this gift would inspire a new series of tied-wire forms, and Untitled (S. 846) would be the first of this series. As Asawa described in a letter written to Mr. Fischbach, "The forms are treelike. What I am doing is dividing the branches in the way a plant divides until it ends up with two or three stems. It is exciting and the possibilities go on and on" (R. Asawa, quoted in letter to Herbert Fischbach, April 1963). This enduring sense of curiosity and possibility is a quality that defined Asawa’s work, and is a quality that speaks very deeply to the Fischbachs’ legacy in the arts. It is more than fitting that Untitled (S. 846), the first realized work from an entirely new series, would find a home in the visionary collection of Marilyn and Herbert Fischbach.

Striking in intricacy and in scale, Untitled (S. 846), 1963, exhibits Asawa’s unrivaled ability to capture the delicacies of nature’s forms. There is a unique duality to Asawa’s chosen medium of galvanized steel—in one sense it is a resilient, utilitarian material, yet Untitled (S. 846) exudes a sense of weightlessness as the delicate bundles interlock, and the sprightly wire-tips expand effortlessly in space. Looking straight on, the viewer is presented with a tree-like form, inspired by arboreous desert landscapes. Overhead, the viewer is welcomed into Asawa’s masterful expression of form. A pattern that resembles the contours of a flower and bristling edges encircle the outer ring pointing outward toward open space. In many ways, Untitled (S. 846) is an homage to nature, and the complex beauty that is birthed from Asawa’s three-dimensional drawing in space.

Lot Essay

Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) Untitled (S. 846, Freestanding Tied-Wire, Closed Center, Six-Branched Tree Form)

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