Event: OCC.0218

Ruth Asawa’s Radical Universalism

September 23, 2020

This virtual presentation by art historian Jason Vartikar posed the question: How are Ruth Asawa’s hanging wire sculptures a form of activism for racial justice?

Just a few years after leaving Rohwer internment camp, Asawa started making her signature hanging wire works at Black Mountain College at precisely the moment that she started to think about how cellular biology could demonstrate racial equality. In the sculptures, lobes of wire mesh interpenetrate, just like the dividing cells that she studied in classes. Do Asawa’s sculptures gesture to the fundamental building blocks, cells, that unite all human beings as one kind? Do Asawa’s sculptures visualize universal equality at the cellular level? If so, her sculptures, in fact, are poignant forms of activism today—at a time when the concept of race continues to rip apart the fabric of our world. Her art asks us to consider how we can further positive change through expression.
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Ruth Asawa