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Ibram Lassaw

American, 1913-2003


Curating Works


Ibram Lassaw was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1913 of Russian émigré parents, he went to the U.S. in 1921. His family settled in Brooklyn, New York. Lassaw first studied sculpture in 1926 at the Clay Club and later at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York. He made abstract paintings and drawings influenced by Kandinsky, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and other artists. He also attended the City College of New York. Influenced by his study of art history and readings in European art magazines, Lassaw began to make sculpture in the late 1920s. He was among a small group of artists who committed themselves to abstract art during the 1930s. Lassaw replaced the monolithic solidity of cast metal with open-space constructions obtained by welding. During the mid-1930s, Lassaw worked briefly for the WPA cleaning sculptural monuments around New York City. Lassaw subsequently joined the WPA as a teacher and sculptor until he was drafted into the army in 1942. Lassaw's contribution to the advancement of sculptural abstraction went beyond mere formal innovation; his promotion of modernist styles during the 1930s did much to insure the growth of abstract art in the United States. Lassaw was one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists group and served as president of the American Abstract Artists organization from 1946 to 1949. Lassaw was a sculptor who was a part of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism during the 1940s and 1950s. Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, James Brooks, Willem de Kooning, and several other artists like Lassaw spent summers on the Southern Shore of Long Island. Lassaw spent summers on Long Island from 1955 until he moved there permanently in 1963. Lassaw’s early works were shown at Samuel Kootz’s gallery and many of his works can now be found in the Smithsonian, MoMA, and the Guggenheim collections.