The Springs, East Hampton, New York
Summary of Ibram Lassaw
Ibram Lassaw, one of America's first abstract sculptors, was best known for his open-space welded sculptures of bronze, silver, copper and steel. Drawing from Surrealism, Constructivism, and Cubism, Lassaw pioneered an innovative welding technique that allowed him to create dynamic, intricate, and expressive works in three dimensions. As a result, he was a key force in shaping New York School sculpture.
- Rather than communicating a specific idea or representation, Lassaw sought to present a structure that was meaningful purely in itself and did not intend for his works' titles to shape audience interpretation of his sculptures.
- Drawing on an interest in the internal structures found in nature, cosmology, astronomy, and technological construction, Lassaw aimed to entice viewers to lose themselves within his sculptures' complex interiors. This creation and enclosure of internal space later became prevalent in Minimalist sculpture.
- Through his commitment to an intuitive construction of space and unconsciously driven application of melted metals, Lassaw developed an aesthetic similar to the instinctual painting compositions of his Abstract Expressionist peers, such as Jackson Pollock, who relied on a kind of trance-like automatism to structure their compositions.
Biography of Ibram Lassaw
Ibram Lassaw was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1913 to Russian-Jewish parents. After briefly living in Marseille, Naples, Tunis, Malta, and Constantinople, his family settled in Brooklyn, New York, in 1921. Lassaw was very interested in art from a young age and worked in clay from the age of four. He also created animals and figures using pieces of tar from the street. The history of art fascinated him, and at age 12, he started amassing an extensive collection of clippings and art reproductions, eventually filling 33 scrapbooks.
Important Art by Ibram Lassaw
After experimenting with plaster, rubber and wire, Lassaw began working with steel, which became a frequent medium for the artist, along with other metals. Sculpture in Steel, composed of biomorphic forms, reflects the important influence Surrealists such as Alberto Giacometti and Joan Miró had on Lassaw. This sculpture, Lassaw's first crafted from welded sheet metal, also reveals the distinct influence of Alexander Calder's mobiles. Around this time, Lassaw was also creating shadowbox sculptures and other works shaped around similar rectangular frames, beginning to develop pieces that depended on and created empty space as a structural element.
Milky Way is notable for signaling a new direction in Lassaw's mature open space style. He considered it his breakthrough sculpture. Here Lassaw was able to work without the rigid framework he had used to support more delicate organic forms. Previous efforts to work in this style has failed due to the use of structurally poor materials such as plaster and metalized compounds. The work is made from a plastic-metal paste which could be applied and shaped by a palette knife over sturdy wire before it hardened. Although this was not the most perfect material for sculpture, Milky Way still stands strong sixty-six years after it was created. Lassaw had a life long interest in all sciences and astronomy, and he used titles with cosmological references because he wanted viewers to experience the work directly without the conceptual baggage a recognizable name would have.
In 1951, after making his first sale, Lassaw was at last able to buy oxyacetylene welding equipment to create sculptures in metal. This work, which followed the morphology of his first 18 welded sculptures was created by first bending and shaping galvanized wire and then fusing molten bronze in layers to build up thickness and strength. The title, Kwannon is the Japanese name for the Buddhist Goddess of mercy and compassion.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Ibram Lassaw
- Three American sculptors: Ferber, Hare, LassawOur PickBy E.C. Goossen
- Ibram Lassaw, Space Explorations: A Retrospective Survey, 1929-1988By Ibram Lassaw
- Ibram Lassaw: Deep Space and BeyondBy Ibram Lassaw
- Ibram Lassaw, 90, a Sculptor Devoted to Abstract FormsBy Campbell Robertson / The New York Times / January 2, 2004
- 'I Want My Sculpture to be Only Its Self,' Says Ibram LassawOur PickBy Erika Duncan / The New York Times / December 18, 1994
- Ibram Lassaw: The Sculptor as ExplorerBy Roberta Smith / The New York Times / September 11, 1988
- Perspectives and Reflections of a Sculptor: A MemoirBy Ibram Lassaw / Leonardo / 1968
- Source of Creativity: Discussion with New York School Artists of the 1950sOur PickConversation with several Abstract Expressionist artists, including Ibram Lassaw
- La Voce della Luna presenta Ibram LassawInterview with Ibram Lassaw in Italian / July 23, 2008
- Matera: Antologica dedicata all'artista USA Ibram LassawJune 14, 2008