Untitled (S.228, Hanging Six-Lobed, Discontinuous Surface (3 sections) with Interlocked Top Section) (ca. 1956) by American artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013) is on view in the new Menil Drawing Institute during its inaugural year. The suspended sculpture, an exploration of line in three-dimensions, is created of thin metal threads crocheted into a vertical sequence of teardrop and orb-like forms.
The sculpture belongs to the artist’s series of Looped Wire works, which borrow from the traditional wire weaving methods of basket makers in Toluca, Mexico. Asawa understood this art form in terms of drawing. “I was interested in [the technique] 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,” she explained.
Asawa’s Looped Wire works grew out of the artist’s time at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina, which she attended from 1946 to 1949. There she studied with Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning, and Buckminster Fuller. The school’s pioneering multi-disciplinary approach and emphasis on humble materials had a significant impact on artists practicing in New York City. John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg, for example, carried on the ethos that deeply impacted an entire generation of artists who came of age in the 1950s, including Jasper Johns.
About Ruth Asawa
Asawa was born in California, outside of Los Angeles, and resided in the northern part of the state for much of her life. Her work has been exhibited widely since the 1950s, including a 1965 solo exhibition organized by Walter Hopps (the first director of the Menil Collection) at the Pasadena Art Museum. Her work is held in major museum collections throughout the United States, including the De Young Museum in San Francisco, which houses a permanent installation of fifteen looped wire sculptures.
This project is generously supported by the City of Houston