Ruth Asawa (American, 1926–2013) was one of California''''''''s most renowned sculptors. Born to Japanese immigrants, in 1942, her family was sent to an internment camp for six months; while there, she spent time drawing and painting with other artists. Asawa traveled to Mexico City in 1945 to study Spanish and Mexican Art. While attending the Milwaukee State Teachers College in Wisconsin, she was told that she couldn’t complete her degree because of the prejudice that existed against the Japanese people at the time. As a result, Asawa continued her education at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. While there, she studied under Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller.

In 1947, Asawa returned to Mexico and learned basket weaving techniques, which later inspired her to create crocheted wire sculptures. During the 1950s, Asawa began her art career making paintings and drawings that developed into linear works. Inevitably, her drawings shifted into sculpture. Asawa considers her wire sculptures to be three-dimensional drawings that change with the viewer’s perspective.

In 1966, the artist began to receive commissions for public art, starting with Andrea, a fountain in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. She also designed the Japanese-American Internment Memorial Sculpture in San Jose in 1994. Asawa collaborated with landscape artists in 2002 to bring large boulders from former Japanese internment camps to San Francisco State University to create the Garden of Remembrance. Her belief in making art education available to children from all backgrounds lead her to co-found the Alvarado Arts Workshop (now called the San Francisco Arts Education Project) with Sally Woodbridge and other local parents in 1965. Asawa’s sculptures can be found in the collections of the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in Logan, Utah.

Asawa died in San Francisco, CA, at the age of 87.


Born in Norwalk, CA


Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, USA
Elements: The Beauty of Chemisty, Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
De Young Museum, San Francisco, USA (solo)
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles, USA (solo)
Vital Forms, American Art in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, USA
Ruth Asawa: Completing the Circle, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, USA
Parallels and Intersections: Art/Women/California, 1950-2000, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, USA
Ruth Asawa: Completing the Circle, Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, USA
Leading the Way: Visionary Asia American Woman Artists of the Older Generation, Gordon College, Wenham, USA
Made in California: Art, Image and Identity, 1900-2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA
Raumkorper Netze und Andree Gebilde, Kunthsalle, Basel, Switzerland
Art in Stone: Prints from the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, 1960-1970, Norman Simon Museum, Pasadena, USA
The Fabric of Life: 150 years of Northern California Fiber Art History, San Francisco State University Art Department Gallery, San Francisco, USA
Generations--the Lineage of Influence in Bay Area Art, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, USA
J.J. Bookings Gallery, San Francisco, USA
With New Eyes, University of Michigan and the San Francisco State University Gallery, Detroit and San Francisco, USA
Asian Roots, Western Soil, Berkeley Arts Center, Berkeley, USA
Pacific Rim: Japan, California Crafts Museum, San Francisco, USA
Syntex Gallery, Palo Alto, USA
Blueprint for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA
Passages: A Survey of California Women Artists, Fresno Arts Center and Museum, Fresno, USA
The Eloquent Object (Sculpture), Phillbrook Museum, Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, USA
San Francisco City College Art Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
Two Person Show (Sculpture), Los Robles Gallery, Palo Alto, USA
Evergreen Galleries, Olympia, USA
Fiberworks, Berkeley, USA
Cedar Street Gallery, Santa Cruz, USA
Cabrillo College, Aptos; Cedar Street Gallery, Santa Cruz, USA (solo)
Santa Cruz County Building, Santa Cruz, USA (solo)
Fresno Arts Center and Museum, Fresno, USA (solo)
Baxter Gallery, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA (solo)
Van Doren Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, USA (solo)
American Women: 20th Century, Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, Peoria, USA
Painters and Sculptors of San Francisco: The Expo 70 Presentation of the San Francisco Art Commission. San Marco Gallery at Dominican College, San Rafael, USA
Recent Drawings: Ruth Asawa, Capper Gallery, San Francisco, USA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA
Made with Paper, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, USA
Contemporary Prints from Northern California, IBM Gallery, New York, USA
Pasadena Museum of Art, Pasadena, USA (solo)