Copper in the Arts

May 2013

Ruth Asawa Exhibition at Christie’s

Wire sculpture Ruth Asawa and Wire Sculpture and Shadows.

Photograph courtesy of Imogen Cunningham

Christie’s presents a survey exhibition dedicated to artist Ruth Asawa, who is considered by many to be one of America's most talented artists of the 20th century. Objects & Apparitions, on view through May 31, is Asawa’s first major solo show in New York in over 50 years. The exhibition features an extraordinary grouping of approximately 50 works including works on paper, and her signature brass and copper wire three-dimensional sculptures. The exhibition coincides with the New York Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions in May of this year, and will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, with original texts by poet and art critic, John Yau, and Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. 

“It is an honor to present this survey of amazing and singular works by Ruth Asawa,” stated Jonathan Laib, Christie’s, Senior Specialist, Post-War & Contemporary Art, curator of the exhibition. “The exhibition will trace Asawa’s artistic journey from her works on paper, created while studying with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, to her career as a pioneering modernist sculptor currently gaining international recognition. The large scope and stature of Asawa’s work will come into vivid focus in this exhibition that I had the pleasure of assembling with the assistance and guidance of Asawa’s incredible family. We are privileged to be able to present thirty-four sculptures and fourteen works on paper, with additional documentary source materials including vintage photographs of the artist and her work taken by the renowned photographer Imogen Cunningham. This exhibition is the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City in over fifty years and Christie’s is pleased to be able to host this incredible event.” 

On a journey to Mexico in the summer of 1947, Asawa was captivated by the looped wire baskets used in markets to sell eggs and other produce. Intrigued with wire as an exploratory medium for her own studies, she began to loop and twist brass and copper wire in a similar fashion, creating three dimensional forms that played with their surrounding space using one continuous line made of wire.

“I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out,” said Asawa. “It’s still transparent. I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.”

Today, Asawa’s work can be found in major collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. She has received numerous awards including the Fine Arts Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts from the Women’s Caucus for Art. In 1982, February 12th was declared Ruth Asawa Day in San Francisco. The same year she was the driving force behind the creation of the public high school for the arts, which is now the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.


Christie’s, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, (212) 636-2000

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