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Artists Ibram Lassaw
Ibram Lassaw Photo

Ibram Lassaw

American Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Abstract Expressionism, The New York School and Abstract Expressionism

Born: May 4, 1913 - Alexandria, Egypt

Died: December 30, 2003 - The Springs, East Hampton, New York

Ibram Lassaw Timeline


"When working on a piece of sculpture I see only the immediate reality of the particular forms and colors that confront me . . . The moment of working to me is an engagement in life. The sculpture itself is REALITY, not an interpretation of reality."
Ibram Lassaw
"Direct sensual experience is more real than living in the midst of symbols, slogans, worn-out plots, cliches - more real than political - oratorical art."
Ibram Lassaw
"I never argue with the medium."
Ibram Lassaw
"It's what's there, not what is implied."
Ibram Lassaw
"Whenever something becomes a representation, I know I must carry it farther. I want my sculpture to be only its self, not something to be looked through in order to find the associative image."
Ibram Lassaw

"The sculpture itself is reality, not an interpretation of reality."

Ibram Lassaw Signature


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.

Key Ideas

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.


Ibram Lassaw Photo


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.

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Ibram Lassaw Biography Continues

Important Art by Ibram Lassaw

The below artworks are the most important by Ibram Lassaw - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Sculpture in Steel (1938)

Sculpture in Steel (1938)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Steel - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Milky Way (1950)

Milky Way (1950)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Plastic-metal compound - Denise Lassaw Collection

Kwannon (1952)

Kwannon (1952)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Welded bronze and nickel-silver - Museum of Modern Art, New York

More Ibram Lassaw Artwork and Analysis:

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Ibram Lassaw
Interactive chart with Ibram Lassaw's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
Alexander CalderAlexander Calder
Buckminster FullerBuckminster Fuller
Julio GonzalezJulio Gonzalez
László Moholy-NagyLászló Moholy-Nagy

Personal Contacts

Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock


Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Influences on Artist
Ibram Lassaw
Ibram Lassaw
Years Worked: 1927 - 2003
Influenced by Artist


Herbert FerberHerbert Ferber
Theodore RoszakTheodore Roszak
David SmithDavid Smith

Personal Contacts

Harold RosenbergHarold Rosenberg


Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Useful Resources on Ibram Lassaw





The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Three American sculptors: Ferber, Hare, Lassaw Recomended resource

By E.C. Goossen


Ibram Lassaw, Space Explorations: A Retrospective Survey, 1929-1988

By Ibram Lassaw

Ibram Lassaw: Deep Space and Beyond

By Ibram Lassaw

Ibram Lassaw, 90, a Sculptor Devoted to Abstract Forms

By Campbell Robertson
The New York Times
January 2, 2004

'I Want My Sculpture to be Only Its Self,' Says Ibram Lassaw Recomended resource

By Erika Duncan
The New York Times
December 18, 1994

Ibram Lassaw: The Sculptor as Explorer

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
September 11, 1988

Perspectives and Reflections of a Sculptor: A Memoir

By Ibram Lassaw

Source of Creativity: Discussion with New York School Artists of the 1950s Recomended resource

Conversation with several Abstract Expressionist artists, including Ibram Lassaw

La Voce della Luna presenta Ibram Lassaw

Interview with Ibram Lassaw in Italian
July 23, 2008

Matera: Antologica dedicata all'artista USA Ibram Lassaw

June 14, 2008

public art

Elysian Fields (1963)

Hanging metal sculpture in New York Hilton Hotel
1335 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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