Ruth Asawa (January 24, 1926 – August 5, 2013) was an American sculptor. Asawa was born in 1926 in Norwalk, California, one of seven children. Her father operated a truck farm until the Japanese American internment during World War II. The family lived in the assembly center at the Santa Anita racetrack for much of 1942, then at Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas.Following her graduation from the internment center's high school, she attended Milwaukee State Teachers College, intending to become an art teacher. Unable to get hired for the requisite practice teaching to complete her degree, she left Wisconsin without a degree. (The degree was finally awarded to her in 1998.) From 1946 to 1949, she studied at Black Mountain College with Josef Albers. Asawa learned to use commonplace materials from Albers, and she began experimenting with wire using a variety of techniques. In the 1950s, Asawa experimented with crocheted wire sculptures of abstract forms that appear as three-dimensional line drawings. She learned the basic technique while in Toluca, Mexico, where villagers used a similar technique to make baskets from galvanized wire.
Asawa's wire sculptures brought her prominence in the 1950s, when her work appeared several times in the annual exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and in the 1955 São Paulo Art Biennial. In 1962, Asawa began experimenting with tied wire sculptures of images rooted in nature, geometry, and abstraction. In 1968, Asawa created her first representational work, a mermaid fountain in Ghirardelli Square on San Francisco’s waterfront, in which she mobilized 200 schoolchildren to mold hundreds of images of the city of San Francisco in dough, which were then cast in iron. Her work is included in prominent art collections such as those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney in New York. She was a driving force behind the creation of the San Francisco School of the Arts, which was renamed the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts in 2010 in tribute to her.
Bayside Plaza, San Francisco