Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction

Ruth Asawa. Untitled. c. 1955

Brass wire, iron wire, and galvanized iron wire, 116 × 14 1/2 × 14 1/2" (294.6 × 36.8 × 36.8 cm). Promised gift of Alice and Tom Tisch. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.

Hilary Reder: —This artwork is a wire sculpture that Ruth Asawa made in the mid-1950s.

As she looped the wire, the form suggested itself through the loops. So there's some spontaneity in this process, leading her to refer to it as a form of drawing in space. She's not changing the properties of the material; it stays as it is, and that's what was very exciting for her.

Here is the artist, Ruth Asawa:

Ruth Asawa: The material is irrelevant. It’s just that that happens to be material that I use. And I think that that is important—that you take an ordinary material like wire and you give it a new definition. That’s all.

Hilary Reder: Asawa never wanted her work to be seen through the lens of her identity and, instead, wanted it to be considered for its formal strength and wanted to be considered an artist first. She, along with other Japanese Americans, and immigrants, was relocated to an internment camp. But she refused to be victimized based on her ethnicity. And I think that attitude carried through for her whole life.

Ruth Asawa: I didn’t want to be a victim of that. I wanted to be on top of it. So I think that attitude was very good for me to have. Even when they rejected me. Then I said, “Well, I’ll go elsewhere.”

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