As Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month kicks off today, Google is honoring the late Bay Area-based Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa.
Best known for her suspended wire sculpture work, a few pieces of which you may have seen hanging permanently at the deYoung Museum in the elevator lobby for the museum's tower, Asawa also did several prominent public artworks in San Francisco including fountains at Ghirardelli Square, and the fountain that sits in the plaza between the Union Square Apple Store and the Grand Hyatt, which depicts various SF landmarks. (The fountain was saved from removal during the planning phase of the new Apple store in 2013.)
Google features a Doodle of Asawa today, her hanging pieces vaguely forming the letters of the company. As local food scribe John Birdsall writes on Twitter, "If you were a kid in the Bay Area on either side of 1970 and your parents subscribed to Sunset magazine, you knew Ruth Asawa at the visual flavor of artistic San Francisco."
If you were a kid in the Bay Area on either side of 1970 and your parents subscribed to Sunset magazine, you knew Ruth Asawa as the visual flavor of artistic San Francisco. https://t.co/YG0k6LROVG— John Birdsall (@John_Birdsall) May 1, 2019
Asawa was interned along with her Japanese-American family during World War II in camps in California and Arkansas. She began making art while there, and after being released headed to the famed art school Black Mountain College in North Carolina, in 1946. It was there that she discovered her love of wire sculpture — adapted from a technique she learned from villagers while visiting Toluca, Mexico —later saying, "I was interested in the economy of a line, enclosing three-dimensional space... I realized that I could make wire forms interlock, expand, and contract with a single strand, because a line can go anywhere."
She would later relocate to San Francisco after school, and her inclusion in the Whitney Biennial in the mid-1950s helped catapult Asawa to international recognition.
The mermaid fountain at Ghirardelli Square, which she made in 1968, was Asawa's first representational work.
Earlier this year, Asawa's work had its first major museum show outside of the West Coast, at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, and you can see this nice video about her work courtesy of ArtNews.
Asawa died in 2013, not long after the controversy erupted over the Apple Store plan, at the age of 87.