R.I.P Ruth Asawa – Art/Activism from Black Mountain College to San Francisco

Ruth Asawa died at age of 87

Ruth Asawa, one of California’s most admired sculptors and the first Asian American woman in the nation to achieve recognition in a male-dominated discipline, died Monday night. She was 87.
Ms. Asawa’s name perhaps will serve as a reminder of the importance of preserving artwork. This year, a proposed Apple store threatened her early 1970s “Hyatt Fountain on Union Square,” on steps between the Hyatt Hotel and the adjacent Levi’s outlet.
After furious public protest, the city rejected Apple’s plans and told the company to redo them to ensure that the fountain sculpture survives.

Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions (youtube)

Ruth Asawa’s Faces on the wall

Asawa with kids

Because of anti-Japanese prejudice, Ms.A sawa was unable to obtain mandatory teaching credentials. She instead entered Black Mountain College in North Carolina, an educational experiment that in its brief life span became a hotbed of artistic innovation. It attracted future luminaries such as Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Franz Kline, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson and Bauhaus exile Josef Albers who, improbably, acted as Ms. Asawa’s mentor.

Ms. Asawa left Black Mountain after three years, emboldened to devote her life to art. She had met there, and soon married, architect and designer Albert Lanier (1927-2008), with whom she had six children.

Ms. Asawa’s other notable public work includes the Japanese-American Internment Memorial in San Jose and the Andrea Mermain Fountain in San Francisco. In addition, the de Young Museum, which honored Ms. Asawa with a career retrospective in 2006-07, has dedicated the ground floor lobby area of its tower to ongoing display of her work.

  • View a gallery of Interment photos

  • Chair drawing by Ruth Osawa

    Portrait of Ruth Asawa by Immogen Cunningham..

    Update: now that she is dead.. she gets rare Solo show in NY.