Ruth Asawa

In commemoration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this week's review spotlights the artwork of Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa.

Ruth Asawa: Through Line

Asawa, Ruth. ed. by Kim Conaty and Edouard Kopp Whitney Museum of American Art, 2023
231p bibl, 9780300273281 $50.00

Ruth Asawa: Through Line book cover.

The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Menil Collection collaborated on this lavishly illustrated catalogue to accompany their retrospective exhibition of works on paper and metal by American artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013). Insightful annotated essays not only introduce the artist but also organize and contextualize her artwork. All the pieces in the exhibit are fully described and illustrated, most with full-page photographs. The impact of growing up on a farm, graduating high school in a Japanese internment camp during WW II, and studying art under Josef Albers and Buckminster Fuller at Black Mountain College was tremendous. Line and repeated patterns made with pens, brushes, markers, and paper form the foundation of Asawa’s incredible two-dimensional work. She successfully integrated her roles as mother, wife, friend, arts advocate, educator, and artist by rendering daily life in sketchbooks she brought everywhere. Pen and ink contour drawings capture found objects and a myriad of people, from her own children to television personalities. Ordinary subjects and an economical approach to line are her hallmarks. The direct relationship between her drawings and abstract wire sculptures, which Asawa dubbed, “drawing in space,” is made obvious.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
: C. A. Ventura, emerita, Tennessee Technological University
Interdisciplinary Subject: Asian and Asian American Studies
Subject: Humanities – Art & Architecture
Choice Issue: Apr 2024

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