Ibram Lassaw


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Sculptor. An abstract artist from the outset of his career in the early 1930s, he was known for asymmetrical, latticelike, three-dimensional metal structures with sensuous and irregular surfaces. He originated these “drawings in space” (as he and others called them) around 1950 in response to the work of Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists whose work he admired. Like many of them, he sought to infuse his work with symbolic and transcendental meanings. Although his wide-ranging intellectual interests and familiarity with Zen Buddhist philosophy supported his aspiration to universal energy and order, he steadfastly maintained that each sculpture should be “only itself,” free of associative images. Born to Russian parents in Alexandria, he spent his early childhood in Egypt, where he attended a French school, but moved with his family to New York in 1921. He was naturalized as a citizen in 1928, the year after he began his professional training at the Clay Club (now Sculpture Center), where he worked until 1932. Concurrently, in 1930–31 he studied at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. He also was enrolled for a short time at City College of New York. While employed from the mid-1930s until 1942 by a federal art project, in 1936 he joined the American Abstract Artists as a charter member. Although Lassaw at first investigated biomorphic forms in clay and plaster, he soon was attracted to a constructivist approach using metal, sometimes in combination with other materials. While serving for two years in the U.S. Army during World War II, he learned welding, later his preferred artistic technique. For a time in the 1940s, under Mondrian's influence, he produced strictly composed geometric compositions, sometimes incorporating organic details. He often employed unconventional materials, such as steel and plastic, in idiosyncratic combinations. Later, Lassaw worked with a wide range of substances to lend color, texture, and organic luster to surfaces, while also engaging the problems of scale in works that range in size from tabletop pieces to monumental architectural embellishments. After previously summering there, in 1962 he moved to the eastern Long Island hamlet of Springs, where he died at his home.

Subjects: Art.

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