The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air (Revised Edition)

By Timothy Anglin Burgard and Daniell Cornell

Book jacket featuring geometric sculptures with "The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa" text

Through her innovative experimentations across media, Ruth Asawa (American, 1926–2013) invented a powerful vocabulary that brought a unique perspective to the field of modern abstract art. Her use of nontraditional materials, such as wire, resulted in work that fosters a deeper awareness of natural forms by revealing their structural properties and transfigures the commonplace into metaphors for life processes.

This revised edition of The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air features enlightening new essays and an expanded chronology that explore Asawa’s fascinating life and her artistic legacy. Replete with more than fifty new images, the volume traces Asawa’s development into a pioneering modernist sculptor—from her early works on paper created at Black Mountain College in the 1940s to the refinement of her signature looped-wire sculptural technique in San Francisco over the course of her career. This book also examines Asawa’s public commissions and activism through arts education to reveal how she redefined art beyond stylistic practice, as a way of thinking and acting in the world.


Timothy Anglin Burgard is the distinguished senior curator and Ednah Root Curator in Charge of American Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the author or coauthor of seventeen books, including Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953–1966 (2013) and Revelations: Art from the African American South (2017).

Daniell Cornell is an independent arts professional, curator, and educator who has held positions at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the New Museum, New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; and, most recently, the Palm Springs Art Museum as the Donna and Cargill MacMillan Director of Art.

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