At Large  April 10, 2020  Chandra Noyes

Ruth Asawa Wire Sculptures to Grace New Stamps

© United States Postal Service

In the latest addition to the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) colorful cultural offerings, Ruth Asawa’s intricate wire sculptures are to grace stamps later this year.

Asawa is best known for her woven wire sculptures, whose elegant forms merge traditional craft techniques with modern materials and aesthetics. Asawa (1926-2013) was born to Japanese immigrants in rural California. At the age of sixteen, she and her family were detained at World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans in California and Arkansas. Asawa would graduate high school there, and go on to study art education in college.

Unable to get a teaching job, Asawa found her way to Black Mountain College, where she studied under Bauhaus emigres Josef and Anni Albers, as well as Jacob Lawrence, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Willem de Kooning. After learning traditional weaving methods on a trip to Mexico, Asawa began experimenting with crocheting abstract forms using metal wire.

flickr/Peter Kaminski

Ruth Asawa sculptures cast beautiful shadows at the de Young Museum of Art

The resulting sculptures are undulating, soft, organic forms made of interwoven wire. Both delicate and durable, we are able to look through and inside of the hanging works, as well as examine their shadows, which create equally intriguing forms. Bridging craft and modern art, pushing the boundaries of positive and negative space, and mixing what is traditionally masculine and feminine, her alluring sculptures defy easy categorization.

Asawa went on to teach and advocate for art education throughout her career. She lived most of her life in San Francisco, where she was an active member of the arts community and founded several art schools, including the San Francisco School of the Arts, now called the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

© United States Postal Service

The stamp sheet features a photograph of young Asawa taken for Life magazine in 1954. Each of the ten 55¢ forever stamps has a photo of a different wire sculpture. The USPS has honored many artists by featuring them on stamps, including Ellsworth Kelly last year, and Martin Ramirez, Romare Bearden, and Andrew Wyeth in the past. An official release date for the stamps has not been announced.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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