“The Chrysanthemum and the Mimeograph:
Ruth Asawa's Botany of Shadows”
This lecture will explore the radically botanical sensibility of the American artist Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), tracing her recently rediscovered drawings of plants and flowers in relation to her upbringing as a farmer, her internment as a Japanese-American in WWII, and her adoption of small-batch, "agricultural" methods of image reproduction.
Dr. Jennifer Roberts is Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, where she teaches in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. An Americanist by training, she has particular interests in material studies, print studies, and the history and philosophy of science.
Roberts is the author of multiple books spanning American art from the 1760s to the present, including "Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History" (Yale University Press, 2004) and "Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America" (University of California Press, 2014). Over the past ten years, she has published extensively on the impact of printmaking on modern and contemporary art, including two volumes on the logic of print in the work of Jasper Johns. In 2019 she delivered the Slade Lectures in the Fine Arts at Cambridge University, and in 2021, she gave the 70th Annual A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts for the National Gallery of Art, with a series titled "Contact: Art and the Pull of Print." She is currently revising the Mellon lectures for publication, and is also working on a co-authored book, with artist Dario Robleto, titled "Life Signs."
At Harvard, along with her regular seminars in the history of art, she teaches gateway courses in the humanities and hybrid classes that combine studio and art history. She has curated multiple exhibitions at the Harvard Art Museums and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and was a founder of the "Minding Making" project, which works toward incorporating technical and artisanal knowledge into the interpretive humanistic disciplines. She is currently focusing on initiatives to create alliances between the humanities and the STEM fields at Harvard and beyond.
[Image: Ruth Asawa, "Chrysanthemum," 1974. Mimeograph on technical paper]