Ruth Asawa
1926–2013


Audio

  • Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, Spanish

    Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1954, refabricated in 1958

    Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1954, refabricated in 1958

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    Narrador: Ruth Asawa hacía esculturas como esta tejiendo alambre metálico, una técnica que aprendió durante un viaje a la Ciudad de México en 1947.

    Ruth Asawa: Ahí es donde aprendí a tejer, y a tejer en alambre.

    Narrador: Asawa fue a Black Mountain College, una escuela de arte experimental que alentaba a los estudiantes a utilizar objetos cotidianos y materiales encontrados.

    Ruth Asawa: Si utilizas un material, quieres saber qué tanto lo puedes alejar del uso que se le da tradicionalmente. Descubres que puedes pasar de dos dimensiones a tres dimensiones, eso me atrae. Puede ser cualquier material. No hace falta que sea alambre.

    Narrador: En 2002, los Archivos de Arte Estadounidense registraron esta entrevista oral con Asawa. En ese momento, ella tenía setenta y seis años. En la entrevista, le preguntaron si le molestaba que su trabajo fuera asociado a la artesanía en lugar de a la escultura.

    Ruth Asawa: No me molesta. No importa si es arte o artesanía. Esas son definiciones que la gente atribuye a las cosas. Me gusta porque el material es irrelevante. Resulta ser, simplemente, el material que yo uso. Y creo que eso es importante: tomar un material común como el alambre y darle una nueva definición. Eso es todo. Me interesa lo que ese material puede lograr en sí mismo, eso es lo que me llena de entusiasmo.

  • Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, Kids

    Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1954, refabricated in 1958

    Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1954, refabricated in 1958

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    Narrator: Ruth Asawa made this sculpture out of wire. She learned how to make the forms in Mexico, watching weavers make traditional baskets. Because she worked in wire, her weavings were see-through—made up mostly of air. At the same time, the materials seem really strong. Asawa once described her woven wire as seeming like medieval chain mail, a material used to make armor. Big yet light, strong yet airy: Asawa was interested in these oppositions. She also liked the way the shapes reminded her of things in nature. She once compared the woven patterns to lines she drew with her toes in the soil of the California farm where she had grown up.

  • Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019

    Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1954, refabricated in 1958

    Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1954, refabricated in 1958

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    Narrator: Ruth Asawa made sculptures like this one by weaving metal wire, a technique that she learned on a trip to Mexico City in 1947. 

    Ruth Asawa: That’s where I learned to knit and to knit with wire.

    Narrator: Asawa attended Black Mountain College, an experimental art school that encouraged students to use everyday, found materials. 

    Ruth Asawa: If you take material you like to know how far you can take it from what it’s traditionally known to do. You find that you can go from two dimensions to three dimensions, that interests me. It can be any material. It doesn’t have to be wire. 

    Narrator: In 2002, the Archives of American Art recorded this oral history with Asawa. In it, she was asked whether it bothered her that her work might be seen in relation to craftmaking, rather than sculpting. 

    Ruth Asawa: It doesn’t bother me. Whether it’s a craft or whether it’s art. That is a definition that people put on things. And what I like is the material is irrelevant. It’s just that that happens to be material that I use. And I think that is important. That you take an ordinary material like wire and you give it a new definition. That’s all. I’m interested in what it can do by itself, that’s what excites me. 

    [Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-July 5. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.]




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