RUTH ASAWA (1926-2013)
RUTH ASAWA (1926-2013)
RUTH ASAWA (1926-2013)
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RUTH ASAWA (1926-2013)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more IMAGE WORLD: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
RUTH ASAWA (1926-2013)

Untitled (S.469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms)

Details
RUTH ASAWA (1926-2013)
Untitled (S.469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms)
brass and copper wire
32 x 16 x 16 in. (81.3 x 40.6 x 40.6 cm.)
Executed circa 1955.
Provenance
Private collection, San Francisco, gift of the artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
New York and Tokyo, Christie's, Ruth Asawa: Line by Line, September-November 2015, pp. 76-77 (illustrated).
Paris, Centre Pompidou and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Women in Abstraction, May 2021-February 2022.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Vanessa Fusco Senior Vice President, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) incites a mitosis of readings and a splitting of viewing response that mimics the work’s very form. On one hand, the organic curves stir fantastical glimmers of otherworldly biomorphs, evoking soft, pliable textures and dream-like creatures. On the other, the knitted metal wire and steady repetition of enmeshed loops recall the standardized pounding of industrial machines, undergirded by a strict mathematical logic. These interpretations oscillate between the whimsical and rhythmically rational and fuel the sheer visual delight of experiencing Asawa’s work. In the doubling of shapes, the best of Asawa’s practice rises to the fore: a masterful balance between soft and hard, craft and industry, and fluidity and rigidity. Asawa’s unique skill as an artist becomes clear in the way she resolves these opposing forces into a dynamic visual equilibrium. The careful symmetry of Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) not only provides a balletic journey for the eye, but also allows for a contemplation and collapsing of the dualities that defined Asawa’s life and practice.
Asawa is best known for weaving wire into ethereal hanging sculptures and learned this technique on a 1947 trip to Mexico. Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) exemplifies the deceptively simple elegance that arises from such a method. The extended parenthetical of the title – “Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms” – describes the work with an almost clinical distance, impassively naming its components as if noting a specimen in a field notebook. This intimation at observing a living being rings true in the viewing experience. A gentle breeze or lingering draft in the gallery space can activate the work into subtle movement, infusing animated spirit into the machine-made wire. The imbricated silhouettes of the inner and outer forms echo anatomical sketches: one cannot help but find a likeness to twin organs in the smaller shapes floating within the larger bulbous vessel. When these biological allusions are paired with repeating rows of e-loops and mirrored symmetry, they sing an ode to the rhythmic order structuring the chaos of the natural world.
To fully appreciate the balance between inner and outer forms that Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) strikes, the work must be apprehended in the context of its biographical resonances. Ruth Asawa grew up on her father’s farm in California where she and her siblings would work long days in the fields. This labor instilled in the artist an intimate understanding of the cyclical patterns of nature, one that manifested in the young Asawa’s free time; she would trace “endless hourglass figures” in the dirt with her feet, a visual mantra made manifest in Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) (T. Anglin Burgard, ed., The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air (revised edition), Oakland, 2020, p. 18). The biomorphic duality of the figures in Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) also suggests the fundamental dichotomy of sex, the budding identical forms hinting at cells replicating following the creation of new life. In this sense, Asawa’s work brings to mind the mixed media work, Ringaround Arosie (1965) by Eva Hesse. Like the devotion to doubled curves in Asawa’s work, Hesse’s work depicts two circles. However, instead of embracing symmetry as Asawa does in Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms), Hesse leans into opposites, enlarging one circle and diminishing the other. Hesse has described this work in terms of gender, designating each interconnected shape as either a male or female sex organ. By viewing these two manipulations of organic form in tandem, Asawa’s masterful execution of harmony and balance in Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms) becomes evidently clear.
While a student at Black Mountain College, Asawa studied under famed color theorist and painter Josef Albers, adopting the German artist as a close mentor. She was especially intrigued by Albers’s concept of “transparency.” On the concept of transparency in her work, Asawa once said, “You can see through it. The piece does not hide anything. You can show inside and outside, and inside and outside are connected. Everything is connected, continuous” (T. Anglin Burgard, ed., The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air (revised edition), Oakland, 2020, p. 37). Asawa’s obsession with Moebius strip-like continuity may hint at buried trauma from her childhood experience of being imprisoned at a Japanese internment camp. While the artist’s later remarks on her internment are free of bitterness, this deeply shameful period in American history must have incised a visceral understanding of the disconnect between Asawa’s outward appearance as Japanese and inward identification as American. In works like Untitled (S. 469, Hanging Two Complex Interlocking Forms with Symmetrical Interior Forms), the divide between interior and exterior disintegrates, the netted surface of the wire ensuring that any “enclosure” is in actuality a freely permeable boundary.

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