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On the occasion of an installation of wire sculptures, drawings, and lithographs by Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner’s 69th Street gallery in New York, this presentation offers a view of the investigations of material and form, often inspired by nature, that defined the artist’s career for half a century. While best known for her innovative wire sculptures, Asawa had a deep connection to drawing and painting and often depicted plants, flowers, and other organic forms across her work that spanned fifty years. Here, we present a selection of the artist’s smaller sculptures along with prints and works on paper, many of which have not been widely shown.
Asawa began experimenting with looped wire as a student in the 1940s at the renowned Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The Bauhaus pioneer Josef Albers was among her instructors there and her most important mentor; he had a profound influence on her approach to making art, and her wire sculptures are deeply rooted in his teachings. Asawa was inspired to begin experimenting with wire during a 1947 trip to Toluca, Mexico, where local craftsmen taught her how to create egg baskets from the material.
Raised on a farm in Norwalk, California, Asawa had a lifelong love of observing plants and the influence of foliage, flowers, and biomorphic forms manifests throughout her many bodies of work. Like her wire sculptures, Asawa’s prints and works on paper are often built on simple, repeated gestures that accumulate into complex compositions, typically engaging directly with the natural world and its forms. Across these works, plants and flowers are a recurring motif which Asawa drew from life in order to study their structure.