Materials and Process

Ruth Asawa. Untitled (BMC.145). c. 1948–49 418

Stamped ink on fabric sheeting, sheet (unfolded): 36 3/4 × 45 1/2" (93.3 × 115.6 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Joshua and Filipa Fink. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.

Paul Lanier: I'm Paul.

Aiko Cuneo: I'm Aiko.

Addie Lanier: I'm Addie, and we're three of Ruth’s six children.

So what we're looking at here is Untitled (BMC.145). Ruth was in charge of the laundry at Black Mountain College from 1948-49.

Paul Lanier: She was being taught about repeating designs, and patterns, problem solving.

Addie Lanier: And if you look really closely, you can see it's the BMC laundry stamp.

Paul Lanier: This stamp was used to mark the pillowcase and sheets. And at Black Mountain, they really stressed experimentation and using different materials. So many of the teachers at Black Mountain were from the Bauhaus, and they were questioning or blurring art and industry.

Aiko Cuneo: They didn't have very much money for materials.

Addie Lanier: The assignment was to take something that you wouldn't normally use to make a work of art, and to use that material to kind of trick the eye you know. It's like you're always trying to be innovative about finding a new use for something that is almost taken for granted or overlooked. So it makes perfect sense that she would find a laundry stamp, and be able to look at it as a graphic unit, and just play with it, and see what she could make out of it. Don't you think?

Aiko Cuneo: I do.