Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ruth Asawa

Aside from Noguchi, Ruth Asawa is one of the few APA artists that stands as someone who could compete on a mini-major level. Little known outside of the "art world," I disagree with her politics, having said of the concentration camp experience, "I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am."

Yet, and yes, I understand this. I think. As I've said, my mom's side of the family is salt o' the earth folks. She was, and still is in many ways, a country gal, raised on a farm. As such they needed hands and grandpa & grandma had a gaggle of them - 9 in all (one aunt would tragically die as a child). Many of them feel the same way as Asawa about the camps.

When I was a kid, I of course didn't know a whit about psych nor gave a fig about it. Life was about playing. As I grew older the "Nisei conciliation" annoyed and then would irritate me. Now, with a bit more livin' under me, I think I get it. But I still don't agree. So if it seems contradictory to like an artist but disagree with their politics, so be it.

At any rate, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is exhibiting Asawa, and I'd never seen her work in person. While I think her stuff can be easily attacked, there's a naivete about it that, if viewed in the right state of mind and circumstances, is pretty cool.

The exhibit mentions her tenure at the legendary Black Mountain College. It makes me jealous that places like BMC aren't everywhere, unleashing all kinds of creative mischief, and that I can't spend my life visiting all of them so I can participate.

I went to the exhibit with Abukur and there's a part of some exhibits that I really dig; often there will be a separate room, fairly intimate, that shows videos and films. They had one at the exhibit. Coincidentally, I was also with Abukur at the Hammer Museum where they have a similar film room - we saw a really cool and funny film by David Shrigley and Chris Shepherd there, "Who I am and What I Want."

There's something about it being day outside, but dark inside, with a thin sliver of light coming in from the entranceway, a small group of people, and a film about art. Bunuel talks a bit about this feeling in relation to watching matinees and then emerging into the daytime, how it's a shock, but a really cool one.

One photo that I would have liked to shown you is by Asawa's friend, Imogen Cunnigham. It's of Asawa, probably in her late 20's in the snow. In medium close up, she's turned almost away from the camera, lending a dimension to the picture that it otherwise would not have, similar to when Magritte paints his bowler man from the back.

So, instead, I'll post this one of her and her kids. I like it because I think kids are better off when exposed to art consistently, and in some ways I'm jealous of those who were raised in such an atmosphere. I had books and music, which of course were great, but I can't even imagine how great it must have been to have been raised in a Neutra house, or surrounded, immersed in art the way Victor and Sally Ganz satiated their apartment. Granted, like I said, parents can have screwed up politics, but I guess what I'm saying is that regardless, if there's a lot of cool art around then that's a good thing.