Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Ruth Asawa

June 5, 2018

A native Californian, pioneering artist Ruth Asawa (1926 – 2013) began creating art while detained in Japanese-American internment camps. Born to Japanese immigrants in Norwalk, California, Asawa was no stranger to hard work and the large body of sculptures, public installations, and drawings that she created over the course of her career are testament to her work ethic. One of the most influential modernists of the 20th century, Asawa studied at the avant-garde Black Mountain College, where she received training under Josef Albers and began work on her singular wire sculptures, for which she continues to be widely celebrated to this day.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), June 10, 2018 Modern Art Design Auction

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.809), c. 1965
June 10, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

Often referring to her wire sculptures as “drawing[s] in space,” works such as her 1965 Untitled (S.809) explore the complex relationships between objects and the spaces they inhabit. As she explained about her tied wire sculptures: “I started in 1962 when a friend of ours brought a desert plant from Death Valley… I tried to draw it, but it was such a tangle that I had to construct it in wire in order to draw it.” Asawa drew inspiration from a variety of sources—from her childhood drawings in the raked soil left in the wake of her family’s ground leveler, to Mexican basket weavers, translucent insect wings, the teachings of R. Buckminster Fuller, and of course the sprouting forms in the surrounding desert landscapes.

This work has not been publicly shown since its exhibition in 1965 at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum). Other examples of Asawa’s sculpture can be found in the collections of the de Young Museum, San Francisco, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, among others.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), June 10, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

“Sculpture.” Ruth Asawa,
Laib, Jonathan, and Robert Storr. Ruth Asawa: Line by Line. Christies, 2015.

Lot Information:

Lot 159
Ruth Asawa
Untitled (S.809 Freestanding Tied Wire, Two Parallel Two-Branched Forms that Interlock and Connect in the Middle)
Executed c. 1965
Oxidized copper wire and copper tubing
Together with copper tag “S.809/60”
58.5″ x 32.5″ x 23″ (including base)
Provenance:  Edgardo Contini, Beverly Hills, California (acquired directly from the artist, May 1965); Thence by descent
Exhibited:  “Ruth Asawa,” Pasadena Art Museum, January 19-February 21, 1965

Estimate: $100,000 – 150,000
June 10, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction

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