Ruth Asawa

1926 - 2013 · United States

Artist biography

American sculptor, educator, and arts activist Ruth Asawa is one of California’s most renowned artists. Inspired by her time spent in Mexico City studying Spanish and Mexican art and basket weaving techniques, Asawa’s linear wire sculptures are a reflection of her education in Mexico. Beginning in drawing and paintings, her work rapidly transformed into the sculptural pieces of nest-like wire, stone, and bronze interweaving and interlocking.

Born in 1926 in rural California, Ruth Asawa’s young adulthood was spent in detainment with her family and other Japanese Americans in an internment camp. It was here that she encountered the art world, exposed to professional artists imprisoned alongside her. After release she sought a degree from the Milwaukee State Teachers College but was forced to abandon her studies due to continued hostility and racism. In 1946 she left Milwaukee for Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a renowned experimental school that led greatly to her development as an artist.

Ruth Asawa’s work has been shown in the most prestigious museums and artistic institutions around the world. Her work can be found in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum,The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Jose Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. Asawa was an avid art educator and advocate; in 1982 she founded the San Francisco School of the Arts (later renamed the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts), and served on the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts before her death in 2013.

Ruth Asawa