From the mid-1960s through 2000, Asawa created hundreds of individual face masks out of clay. With the Cantor’s Asian American Art Initiative, this wall of 233 masks becomes a permanent part of their collection.
The Asian American Art Initiative (AAAI) transforms Stanford into the leading academic and curatorial center for Asian American art. Alexander and Marci Kwon, assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Art and Art History, serve as AAAI co-directors. As part of the initiative, the Cantor works to build the preeminent collection of Asian American art at a university art museum.
The Cantor acquired Untitled (LC.012, Wall of Masks) in 2020. On July 6, 2022, they go on long-term view at the museum, marking the first time this work has been shown in its entirety at any museum or public institution. The focused exhibition, The Faces of Ruth Asawa, curated by Alexander, features the masks and three vessels by Asawa’s son Paul Lanier. These special vessels were created with clay mixed with the ashes of Asawa, her husband Albert, and their late son, Adam. Upon Asawa’s death—per her request—Lanier took this material and threw a set of vessels, one for each remaining sibling. The three included in The Faces of Ruth Asawa were borrowed from the family. Their inclusion in the exhibition further demonstrates Asawa’s deeply intimate connection to clay.
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