Property from the Collection of Ruth Asawa
Christie's is honored to offer at auction this fall Ruth Asawa's master work Untitled, one of the artist's largest and most intricate sculptures to incorporate her best known form-within-a-form motif. Methodically woven by hand, Untitled exists essentially as a drawing in space, an intertwining network of brass and copper wire, three strands together producing an enigmatic form that is equally surprising and awe inspiring. Asawa's crocheted wire forms were often executed 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. Similarly, Asawa's process and rhythmic wire loops recall the early Infinity Nets created concurrently by Yayoi Kusama in the 1960's. Though Kusama's nets were primarily graphic works on canvas, her paintings like Asawa's sculptures, were created through the infinite repetition of a single calligraphic motion. Like Yayoi Kusama, Asawa creates mystery and profundity through deceptively simple means while giving form to the ineffable. Untitled was included in Asawa's 1973 traveling retrospective exhibition as well as her blockbuster survey held in 2006 at the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Of the several known works that share in the scale and importance of Untitled three are held in the collections of the de Young Museum, San Jose Art Museum and Nora Eccles Museum.
Ruth Asawa has lived a rare and unique life as an artist. Her life, like her art, has been shaped by social and political impositions. unfair restrictions on her liberties and supposed inalienable rights. As a teenager in the early 1940's, Asawa and her family were sent by Executive Order to an internment camp by order of the FBI to be displaced along with approximately 120,000 fellow Japanese-Americans. Under the tutelage of professional artist's who were also interned in the camps, Asawa exercised freedom through her art while her physical civil liberties were sadly limited by her own government. 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 Asawa had been recruited by fellow student of Ray Johnson at to attend Black Mountain College College where, for the next three years she was mentored by such notables as Josef and Anni Albers, Ilya Bolotowsky, Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller. From the teachings of these instructors and legendary artist's, Asawa absorbed fundamental lessons regarding a "Less is More" approach to art making.
Additional works offered from the collection of Ruth Asawa are iconic examples of Josef Albers' Homage to the Square series and Ray Johnson's Moticos. Albers' Homage to the Square: Study for Portal A and B, is a serious foray into the pure expression of color. Though the structure of this Homage to the Square is precisely delineated the color itself is transient and infinitely subtle; the impact of Albers work on American art cannot be overstated, his work informs the brilliance of Washington School color field painting and the Post-Minimalist and California Light and Space artists obsession with pure visual experience. Ray Johnson's Moticos are embellished forms of communication that deny easy interpretation. The works radically depart from the conventions of painting and collage and are filled with signs and symbols culled from mass media meshed with quirky doodles, shaped by the artist in rebellious protest of the otherwise conventional rectilinear format. Gifted to Asawa over a duration of yearsduring the 1950s, these Moticos represent a lasting friendship and her inclusion in Johnson's "New York Correspondance Correspondence School."