It has been hectic, so much so that meandering and exploring I like to do frequently, has dwindled down to zero. So last week, amidst working on orders, custom projects and applying to new ventures, I took a long walk (with giant bags of produce from the Union Square market) 6 avenues westward to see the Ruth Asawa exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery.
I only became aware of Ruth's work a few years ago, but never had a chance to delve deeper in her practice. Sometimes not having the ability to physically connect with the artist and their work means I don't investigate further than a superficial visual admiration.
Exhibit was closing in 2 days and it reminded me that these events are one of the reasons I continue to live in NYC. No stalling...
When you walked in you were greeted with plaster faces of people from her community. She kept a bag of plaster in her kitchen and was always casting visitors and her family. Sculptures were hung on the outside of her house near San Francisco. Community was essential component of her life. Ruth was raised on a farm, she raised 6 children and her home weaved art, community and family together. Big community influence was her time at Black Mountain College where she spent time with unique thinkers and visionaries like Joseph and Ani Albers, Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller to name a few. These years at BMC profoundly influenced her and shaped her as an artist.
I was particularly interested in seeing the forms in person, as someone who is obsessed with finding and moving "the line". I found her saying: “I was interested in [wire] because of the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. 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.”
This speaks to me and I understand her. I look at the world around me through series of lines and forms and I try to extricate some of those observations into wearable sculptures.
Her craft is exceptional! The weave is imperfectly perfect but so meticulously executed. I read she learned to weave from a basket weaver somewhere in South America. That trip had a lasting impact as she used this technique over and over to create undulating, flowing, sinuous forms. Some I haven't seen before :
“My curiosity was aroused by the idea of giving structural form to the images in my drawings. These forms come from observing plants, the spiral shell of a snail, seeing light through insect wings, watching spiders repair their webs in the early morning, and seeing the sun through the droplets of water suspended from the tips of pine needles while watering my garden.”
What especially touched me were her drawings of quiet sleeping moments of her children and husband. They were explorations of repetitive patterns but nestled inside were people whom she loved. They felt very intimate.
I browsed quickly through the "Ruth Asawa: Life's Work" (which I hope to purchase soon) and found this bit which really helps convey the creative process. I get asked a lot "how long does something take me" and the answer is never simple and never in hours.
"Learning is cumulative, which comes from experiences with many people with different viewpoints and techniques. Techniques are simple to learn. Digesting them and making something that represents YOU will take a lifetime. Learn to draw, build, work with materials. Above everything be curious, learn all you can, and take a lifetime doing it."
I encourage you to explore on your own. What a human, an artist, a mother, an activist, a community organizer and a partner. She lived a fully immersed, intertwined life.
More on Ruth Asawa HERE