Naturally oxidized copper and brass wire
253 x 37 x 37 in. (642.62 x 93.98 x 93.98 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation
Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S.304) is a six-lobed hanging structure made of handwoven brass wire. At twenty-one feet long, it is the artist’s largest sculpture, an exploration of a continuous line that loops and crosses back over itself, resulting in a complex lattice of holes, or openwork forms. Asawa’s use of malleable brass wire results in a flexible grid, bending and softening the hard geometries of traditional modernist sculpture by contemporaries such as Mark di Suvero and David Smith.
Through its accumulation of hollow, globular shapes, Untitled (S.304) offers a sense of enclosure and interiority, its internal forms simultaneously caged and protected. Light and elastic, it moves ever so slightly in response to air currents, and this floating quality is enhanced when its shadow is cast in sharp relief on the wall.
As a Japanese American, Asawa experienced racial discrimination, along with the poverty and deprivation that came with forced internment in California and Arkansas for most of the duration of World War II. Yet, like many women sculptors of her generation, she was adamant that her work not be analyzed through the lens of gender or race. Asawa was one of Black Mountain College’s most famous students, studying with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller. Their lessons in geometric form and movement, in combination with Asawa’s trip to Toluca, Mexico, in 1946, where she first saw indigenous craftspeople making wire baskets, strongly influenced her subsequent biomorphic forms, as well as her future work in looped wire.
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