Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)
Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)
Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)
Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)
Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)

Lot 11
From the Estates of Ruth Asawa and John Kerr

Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013)
Untitled S.621 (Hanging, Six-Lobed, Multi-Layered, Interlocking Forms with a Sphere in the Third Lobe)
c. 1973
Brass and Copper Wire
77 inches x 16.5 inches x 16.5 inches

Estimate: $150,000-250,000

LOT SOLD: $965,000

Photos ©Laurence Cuneo, 2014

Please see Robert Snyder’s Ruth Asawa: Of Forms and Growth, © Masters & Maserworks Productions, Inc. for footage of Ruth Asawa forming the base of this sculpture and discussing her creative process. A DVD of the film can be purchased at:

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Today, Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) is one of America’s most celebrated educators and artists. Asawa’s constructionist wire creations celebrate negative and positive space and the relationship between open and closed forms. They are sculptures that seem to be drawn in space. Asawa’s frequent use of contrasting types of wire adds drama by interweaving contrasting texture and color within a unified design.

Asawa’s time as a student at Black Mountain College in North Carolina during the late 1940s had a profound effect on her. Her key mentor was the famous Bauhaus-trained German painter Josef Albers, from whom she not only learned color theory and design, but also the importance of experimenting with different materials to the fullest until the desired effect is achieved. Her other professors included Merce Cunningham, Ilya Bolotowsky and Buckminster Fuller. While she was a student the college had visiting professors such as Willem de Kooning, and her classmates included Kenneth Noland, Ray Johnson, and Robert Rauschenberg. Importantly, she learned from Albers the importance of negative verses positive space and explored the relationship of two-dimensional to three-dimensional designs, realizing that she could, in fact, ‘draw in space.’ For Asawa, wire would be the medium with which she would draw. As Daniell Cornell has pointed out, several of Alber’s exercises for his students at Black Mountain College involved folding paper into three-dimensional shapes. (Please see The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air. Daniell Cornell, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, University of California Press, 2006, p. 143) Asawa developed her unique style of wire looping in part from the techniques and patterns of village basket weavers that she encountered on a trip to Mexico in the summer of 1947. She began manipulating wire in an “e–loop motif” which could be woven flat, and then shaped into a plethora of forms. Asawa visualized wire patterns as lines which could be made into a sculptural, three-dimensional form. Asawa said, “I was interested in…the economoy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent. I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.” (Cornell, p. 138)