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Ibram Lassaw

 (1913 - 2003)
Ibram Lassaw was active/lived in New York.  Ibram Lassaw is known for abstract space sculpture.

Ibram Lassaw

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Ibram Lassaw
The following is from Denise Lassaw, daughter of the artist:

Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1913, Ibram Lassaw came to the U.S. in 1921. At age thirteen he joined a sculpture class at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, taught by Dorothea Denslow who with her students, formed the Clay Club, and later The Sculpture Center. Lassaw also studied classical sculpture at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design, 1930-31, and attended City College of New York.

He began experimenting with abstraction in both two and three-dimensional forms around 1928. He worked for several years on the Federal Arts Project of the Public Works Administration, before being drafted into the army during WWII.

Lassaw was one of the founders of the American Abstract Artists in 1936 and
president of that organization from 1946 to 1949. He was also one of the
charter members of the artist's "Club" in 1949. In the mid 40's, he pioneered Projection Paintings, intensely colored abstract paintings on glass slides that could be projected to cover a whole wall.

Lassaw was part of a informal group of artists, all friends and neighbors who lived and worked illegally in lofts in New York City. In the 40's and 50's they were all energetically working on what soon became known as Abstract Expressionism. This title was given by critics and art historians, the artists never agreed on any label, they were not of one-mind on this or on any other issue.

Included in this group were Bill and Elaine de Kooning, Philip Pavia, Milton Resnik, David Hare, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Franz Kleine, Paul Jenkins and Alice Baber, Harold and Mae Rosenburg, Marcel and Tina Duchamp, Max Ernst, Al Leslie, and many other writers, painters and sculptors, as well as Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Frank O'Hara and other dancers, musicians and poets; and brilliant thinkers such as Buckminster Fuller and Joseph Campbell.

The list of friends and acquaintances would go on forever) Between dropping over for visits, loft parties, Gallery and Museum openings, afternoons in Washington Square Park and occasional evenings at the Cedar Tavern or the Five Spot, this group of creative people shared their thoughts and ideas passionately with one another. They also shared a beatific poverty; no one was making money on their art, but money wasn't the objective.

This was rich ground for the cross-pollination of artistic and philosophical influences. Many of these artists had classical art training but had been influenced by new ideas from Europe and in the sciences. Lassaw read extensively in the physical sciences, especially physics, and both Eastern and Western philosophy, and had studied the history of world art since he was a teenager.

Ibram Lassaw found his distinctive path into "open space sculpture" as a result of his conclusions about the direction that Art should be moving into the future. From his studies he had observed that art adapted to the latest technologies and materials before the general population did and he saw the new direction of human thought going into the discovery of Space and the nature of nature.

Lassaw dislikes the terms "expressionism" or "self-expression", since he says he never starts with an idea or a concept that he wants to express to an audience, but prefers to open himself to a intuitive "process" and discover where it will take him.

He likes to be "surprised." The artist is also Nature. In writing about his sculpture a number of authors have found similarities between Lassaw's open-space, organic/intuitive forms and the beautiful skeins of colored line/splashes that Pollock became so well known for, and come to the conclusion that Lassaw followed Pollock in that direction. However Pollock worked on the flat plane of the canvas and Lassaw worked in three- dimensional open space. Lassaw was already working in open space when Pollock began working abstractly.

From 1951 until 1965, Lassaw was represented by the Kootz Gallery in New York City and since then by various galleries around the country.

Although he is best known for his open space welded sculptures in bronze, nickel silver, phos-copper, silicon bronze, steel and other alloys, he has simultaneously worked in other media such as works on paper and canvas with inks and acrylic, lithographs, and his one-of-a-kind "bosom sculptures", welded bronze-gold plated jewelry.

Lassaw was the Benjamin N. Duke Professor at Duke University 1962-63; taught at the University of California, Berkeley in 1965-66; Southampton College from 1966 to the mid 70's and spent a year as a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke College.

Lassaw's work is in the permanent collections of museums on four continents, including The Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Albright Knox Gallery; Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janero, Brazil; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Guggenheim Museum and many others. At age 88, Ibram Lassaw continues to create in his studio on Long Island.

Sam Hunter, art critic, wrote:
"Few artists have made more personal and poetic statements in sculpture out
of the collective impulse of abstract expressionism than Ibram Lassaw. Yet of the major figures who emerged during the heroic post-war years of the American avant-garde, he has maintained the most consistent theoretical basis for his art, drawing on such intellectual sources as Taoist and Zen teachings, the psychology of Jung, and other esoteric sources that generally throw light on non-rational mysteries and the creative potencies in man. The ideal calm which Lassaw's personal presence radiates is an achieved and mastered serenity, which never fails to make a striking impression; in his daily life it is disrupted only by regular bouts of energetic creation, and by continuous sense of astonishment and delight at the inexhaustible
spectacle of the world, or more accurately the cosmos... his art has become a simulacrum of that revealed order and purpose, which he can argue in verbal discourse with an almost professional philosophical detachment."

Exhibitions/books list:

2011 Lee Krasner, a biography, Gail Levin

2011 Since 45: America and the making of Contemporary Art, Kay Siegal

2010 Leo & His Circle, The Life of Leo Castelli, Annie Cohen-Solal

2010  Abstract Expressionism at The Museum of Modern Art: Selections from the Collection, Ann Temkin/MoMA

2010  Constructive Spirit: Abstract Art: south and North America 1920'2-1930's, Newark Museum

2010 Made in the U.S.A./contemporary Art in America, Judy Collischan

2010  Grounding the Social Aesthetics of Abstract Expressionism: A New Intellectual History, Valerie Hellstein, Stony Brook

2009 Abstract Expressionism: Further Evidence- Sculpture part 2 Michael Rosenfeld Gallery NYC

2009  The Museum of Non-Objective Painting: Hila Rebay and the Origins of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Karole Vail

2009 Philip Johnson: The Constancy of Change, Emmanuel Petit, Yale University press

2008  Abstract Expressionism at Mid-century:  Modern Masters: from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

2008 Ibram Lassaw, Opere dal 1927 al  2003 Museo della Sculura Contemporaneo, Matera, Italy

2008 Action /Abstraction: Pollock, De Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976, Jewish Museum

2007  Encylopedia of Jewish American Artists, Samantha Baskin, Greenport Press

2007  1946-1968- The Birth of Contemporary Art Art of the 20th Century vol. 3, Skira/Rizolli

2007  Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Murial Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection, Metropolitan Museum

2007 Figuring Space: Sculpture/Furniture from Mies to Moore, Henry Moore Institute, England

2007  Club Without Walls: Selections from the Journals of Philip Pavia, Natalie Pavia/ Midmarch Press

2007 Peggy Guggenheim: Un Amore Per la Scultura, Fondazione Cariverona, Venice Italy

2007 Abstract Expressionism: The International Context, Joan Marter, Rutgers  University

2006  The Illustrated Timeline Of Art History: A Crash Course In Words And Pictures, Carol Strickland, Sterling Pub.

2006 Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Greenberg, Clement Greenberg, Alice Goldfarb, MFA Pub.

2006  Process and Promise: Art Education and Community at the 92nt Street Y, catalogue

2005  Zabriskie: 50 Years, Ruder Finn Press

2005 Art of the 20th Century, Ingo Walther, Tashen

2005 Zen and Artists of the 8th Street Club: Ibram Lassaw and Saburo Hasegawa, Sarah Johnson, City University

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About  Ibram Lassaw

Born:  1913 - Alexandria, Egypt
Died:   2003 - East Hampton, New York
Known for:  abstract space sculpture

Essays referring to
Ibram Lassaw

Abstract Expressionism