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Activity

Wire Sculpture Explorations

Objective: Students will critically examine Ruth Asawa’s sculpture work and create their own works of art in her style using principles of geometry and 3D shapes

Hanging six-lobed complex interlocking continuous form.

Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1955 (refabricated 1957–1958), by Ruth Asawa (American, 1926–2013). Brass and steel wire. Whitney Museum of American Art, Gift of Howard Lipman.

 

Ruth Asawa was best known for her abstract, biomorphic sculptures. Using looped wire mesh, she wove large-scale forms that combined architectural elements with craft and design. These forms would become her signature art, eventually changing the genre of sculpture. Using geometric figures and abstract shapes, her installations redefine fluidity and space.

Content Standards

Grade 1 CREATIVE EXPRESSION 2.1: Use texture in two‐dimensional and three‐dimensional works of art.

2.3: Demonstrate beginning skill in the manipulation and use of sculptural materials (clay, paper, and papier-mâché) to create form and texture in works of art.

Grade 3 4.0 AESTHETIC VALUING

4.1: Compare and contrast selected works of art and describe them, using appropriate art vocabulary.

Visual Arts Grade 7 2.0 CREATIVE EXPRESSION 

2.1: Develop increasing skill in the use of at least three different media.

2.3: Develop skill in using mixed media while guided by a selected principle of design.

Grade 8 3.0 HISTORICAL & CULTURAL CONTEXT

3.3: Identify major works of art created by women and describe the impact of those works on society at that time.

Prof.MA:Cn11: Demonstrate and explain how media artworks and ideas relate to various contexts, purposes, and values, such as social trends, power, equality, and personal/cultural identity.

Materials

  • Examples of Asawa’s sculptures (download Teacher Packet pdf from sidebar above)
  • Plastic coated craft wire, pipe cleaners, or sculpting wire
  • Various colored or textured paper cut into strips
  • Yarn or thick thread
  • Corkscrews
  • Examples of geometric shapes (found in Appendix A of the Teacher Packet)
  • Optional: cardboard bases, glue guns, beads, or buttons for decorating

Procedure

  1. Introduce students to Asawa by discussing her biography or showing a biographical video. Use the visual art archives located in the Teacher Packet to project examples of her work for the class to view.
  2. Define “sculpture,” “2D,” “3D,” “positive space,” “negative space,” and any math terms that are appropriate for your students. Examples include geometric shape names, such as “polyhedron,” “face,” “edge,” “prism,” etc.

Art Project

  1. Give instructions to the class — students will create geometric shapes using the materials provided and then connect the shapes into a larger sculpture.
    • Decide on the number of shapes students will create based on class time and skill levels. Two to four shapes is an appropriate range unless this project will span multiple class periods.
  2. Demonstrate techniques for manipulating the wire or pipe cleaners. Asawa’s personal technique was to wrap wire over a wooden dowel and remove the dowel before flattening the loops.
    • Ask students to consider different ways to bind their materials together.
    • Project examples of different 3D shapes for students to model their sculptures after.
  3. After individual shapes are completed by students, invite students to begin linking their shapes together.
  4. Provide time to decorate with glitter, sequins, beads, etc.

Conclusion

  1. Ask students to discuss what was the best technique for creating shapes, and what the hardest and/or the most enjoyable part of the art project was.
  2. Provide time for a gallery walk of all the student projects.

Natural Art Extension

Consider asking students to source materials from everyday life, such as recycled paper, egg cartons, leaves, or grass. Use these in conjunction with wires to create shapes or decorate. Discuss how to reuse and recycle everyday materials.

This lesson was modeled after the SPARKed Educator Guide: Ruth Asawa, by KQED. Several of the discussion questions were originally published through this source.