The Hard-Hitting Impact of Sculptor Ruth Asawa, ‘Life’s Work’ On View Now at The Pulitzer

“Life’s Work,” at The Pulitzer in St. Louis, curated by the nonprofit’s chief curator Tamara H. Schenkenberg, is a haunting, immersive retrospective of the late artist Ruth Asawa‘s massive body of work spanning several decades. Born in Norwalk, California, Asawa was one of seven children and the daughter of Japanese immigrants. Before she died, Asawa discussed in an interview how subconscious parts of her early formative experience made their way into her work, growing up on a farm and then being sent to an internment camp on a race track in Arcadia, California, during which Asawa recalls the constant smell of horse manure. It was there that she began drawing in her free time. She later studied art at Black Mountain College, where she met mentor and acclaimed Bauhaus artist Josef Albers.

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“Untitled (S.040, Hanging Eight-and-a-Half Open Hyperbolic Shapes that Penetrate Each Other” Ruth Asawa ca. 1956.

What audiences will see at The Pulitzer is the labor that came after those long years Asawa traversed the unknown. Eventually she graduated from two-dimensional works to sculpture, using wire instead of the pen or pencil to draw, alongside cast and electroplated works, drilling down into further specificity with materials like enameled copper wire and galvanized steel. Asawa used the latter to construct the ornate and stunning piece, “Untitled (S.040, Hanging Eight-and-a-Half Open Hyperbolic Shapes that Penetrate Each Other),” completed in 1956.

The exhibit will be on view at The Pulitzer now through Feb. 16, 2019.

All images courtesy of Ruth Asawa.

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