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Ruth Asawa (b. 1926)
Property from the collection of Nancy Emmons
Ruth Asawa (b. 1926)

Untitled (S.541, Hanging Five-Lobed, Single Layer Continuous Form With Single Interior Lobes in the Top and Middle Lobes)

Ruth Asawa (b. 1926) Untitled (S.541, Hanging Five-Lobed, Single Layer Continuous Form With Single Interior Lobes in the Top and Middle Lobes) hanging sculpture--naturally oxidized woven brass and steel wire 54 x 11 x 11 in. (137.1 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm.) Executed circa 1955.
Robert B. Howard, San Francisco, gift from the artist
Nancy Emmons, Acquired from the above, 1962

Lot Essay

Methodically woven by hand Asawa's hanging sculptures exist as drawings in space, intertwining networks of wire produce enigmatic forms, equally surprising and awe inspiring. Asawa often executed her looped wire forms in her home, surrounded by her six children, life intertwined with art. This quality calls to mind the organic forms of another important 20th century female artist, Louise Bourgeois, whose oversize spider sculptures possess a similar sense of labored domesticity. Both artists touch on the notion of a mother figure weaving and threading her way through art and life as a means of reflecting upon personal experience. Asawa creates mystery and profundity through deceptively simple means while giving form to the ineffable.

Ruth Asawa has lived a rare and unique life as an artist shaped by social and political impositions. As a teenager in the early 1940's, Asawa and her family were sent by Executive Order to an internment camp to be incarcerated along with approximately 120,000 fellow Japanese-Americans. Under the tutelage of professional artist's also interned in the camps, Asawa exercised freedom through her art while her own government limited her civil liberties. Though the forced internment was much more than a simple imposition, Asawa exhibits great humility and harbors little resentment as is apparent nearly fifty years later in the following statement. "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."

By 1946, fellow student Ray Johnson had recruited Asawa to attend Black Mountain College where, for the next three years such notables as Josef and Anni Albers, Ilya Bolowtowsky, Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller mentored her. From the teachings of these instructors and legendary artist's, Asawa absorbed fundamental lessons regarding a "Less is More" approach to art making.

Untitled (S.541) is an incredible example of Asawa's most desirable works. This sculpture was gifted by Ruth Asawa to the west coast artist Robert B. Howard in the 1950s; a wonderful artist in his own right, a sculptor of finely crafted mobiles whose works are held within the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Party at Robert B. Howards studio, San Francisco, ca. 1950s

Nancy Pierson Emmons, circa 1959, Mill Valley, CA

Ruth Asawa holding a form within form sculpture, 1952.
Artwork: Ruth Asawa. Photo: Imogen Cunningham Trust.
(c)The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2012

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