Her Stamp So Profound

San Francisco artist Ruth Asawa's striking sculptures honored with new USPS stamps
Fridays on the Homefront
Ruth Asawa, the daring Bay Area mid-century modern sculptor who challenged the spatial assumptions of her medium and left a stimulating and enduring mark, was recently honored with a block of ten new Forever postage stamps by the U.S. Postal Service. Three are pictured above.

The United States Postal Service is sure in the news a lot lately, very little of it positive. Leave it to San Francisco's legendary 'fountain lady' to add a brief splash of cheer to the troubled institution.

"The Postal Service takes tremendous pride in the stamp program, which celebrates the very best of American life, history, and culture," USPS executive Sharon D. Owens stated recently. "Today we're dedicating a new stamp set that honors the groundbreaking and iconic works of Ruth Asawa—one of the greatest American artists of the past century."

Asawa (1926-2013) was a daring mid-century modern sculptor who challenged the spatial assumptions of her medium and left a stimulating and enduring mark on her adopted hometown. In her art, the Norwalk, California, native said, she sought to create "a shape that was inside and outside at the same time." Sound familiar?

  Fridays on the Homefront
Artist Ruth Asawa: "a shape that was inside and outside at the same time."
 

The release August 13 of these new Forever Stamps—graced by photos of ten different wire sculptures by Asawa and good for first-class postage as long as USPS survives—is an aesthetic highlight of this oft-trying year.

One Eichler homeowner who recently contacted us is already celebrating the stamp release while acknowledging the alleged financial and administrative issues with USPS.

"Given that we are urged to buy stamps these days to save the USPS, this amazing modern art stamp sheet seems like a good choice for MCM fans," writes costume designer and college instructor Tara Maginnis of San Rafael. "I've bought sheets for all my relatives for Xmas, doubly so since about half of them actually were peripherally acquainted with Ruth Asawa while in the orbit of the San Francisco Unified School District art scene and admire her work."

Fridays on the Homefront

The block of Asawa stamps available for a limited time at local post offices includes two of each sculpture positioned alongside a portrait of the artist taken in 1954 by Nat Farbman for Life magazine. The sculpture photos were taken by Laurence Cuneo and Dan Bradica for the David Zwirner gallery in New York, which controls rights to Asawa's estate.

The stamps were dedicated in a virtual ceremony attended by Sharon Owens from USPS along with Asawa's son Paul Lanier; Jonathan Laib, director of the Zwirner gallery; and actor/media influencer George Takei, a leader and founding member of the Japanese American National Museum.

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Aurora Pontus, Asawa's 1986 origami-inspired fountain at Bayside Plaza, San Francisco. Photo: Shawn Clover