The US Postal Service is honoring the life and career of Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa, whose work is found in the Crystal Bridges collection, with a beautiful stamp collection featuring her wire sculptures. They were released nationwide on August 13, 2020.
According to USPS, “showcasing Asawa‘s wire sculptures, the pane includes 20 stamps, two each of 10 designs, featuring photographs by Laurence Cuneo and Dan Bradica for David Zwirner gallery. The selvage features a photograph of Asawa taken by Nat Farbman in 1954 for Life magazine.”
As the post office describes: “Inspired by natural elements such as plants, snail shells, spiderwebs, insect wings, and water droplets, Asawa’s sculptures, when shown together, can evoke an undersea domain, a magical upside-down world, or an environment all their own.”
Ruth Aiko Asawa was born in 1926 in southern California to Japanese immigrants who worked as farmers.
Not long after Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt’s executive order to intern Japanese Americans during the war, Ruth’s father was taken away from their home by FBI officials. The family did not see him again for two years. In April 1942, Ruth, her mother, and five siblings were removed to a camp in Arcadia, California, and were later moved to the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center, in southeast Arkansas.
After the war, Asawa attended college in Milwaukee thanks to a scholarship provided by the Japanese American Student Relocation Council, and continued art training at Black Mountain College in North Carolina where she made her first wire sculpture. Asawa worked in a variety of media, including wire sculpture, paintings, drawings, masks, and public commissions until her death in 2013.
In Untitled (S.028, Hanging Four-Lobed Continuous Form within a Form), Ruth Asawa created this large, hanging metal sculpture by weaving iron wire into organic forms. Look through the negative space between each loop of wire to observe the smaller forms nested within. Shadows cast by light seen through the artwork show more than a simple silhouette—and help reveal the entire detail of the exterior and interior of the work.
At the center of Untitled (S.557, Wall-Mounted Tied Wire, Closed Center Twelve-Petaled Form Based on Nature), a knot of wrapped wires extends outward, eventually unraveling into spikey forms that look similar to tree branches. In fact, this piece nods to the fencing that surrounded the internment camp giving the lovely object a subtlety sinister edge.