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Ibram Lassaw was born of Russian parents in Alexandria, Egypt, on May 4, 1913. He emigrated to the United States and settled in New York in 1921. He learned traditional modeling, casting and carving as a young sculpture student at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in 1926, the Clay Club, Brooklyn, from 1927 to 1932, and when he took evening classes at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, New York, in 1931-32, while attending City College, New York. Lassaw’s encounter with avant-garde art in the International Exhibition of Modern Art organized by the Société Anonyme at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926 made a powerful impression on him.
In the early 1930s he explored new materials and notions of open-space sculpture. The ideas of Moholy-Nagy and Buckminster Fuller were important to him and he knew the work of González, Picasso, and the Russian Constructivists. A pioneer of abstract sculpture in the United States, in 1936 Lassaw was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists. Between 1933 and 1942 Lassaw worked for various federal arts projects: the Public Works of Art Project, the Civil Works Authority and the WPA Federal Art Project. In 1938 he produced his first welded work. He served with the United States army, where he learned direct welding techniques. During the forties he experimented with cage constructions and with acrylic plastics, adding color to his sculptures by applying dye directly to their surfaces. In 1949 Lassaw was a founder of The Club: the first meeting of this informal discussion group of New York School artists took place in his studio.
Lassaw used oxyacetylene welding techniques in evolving his mature improvisational manner in the 1950s. His first solo show was held at the Kootz Gallery in New York in 1951 and since that time he has exhibited widely. Deeply interested in biology, cosmology and religion, the artist studied Zen Buddhism at Columbia University in New York. He executed the first of numerous public commissions in 1953, for TempIe Beth-El in Springfield, Massachusetts. A retrospective of his work was held at the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York, in 1973 and a solo exhibition at the Zabriskie Gallery, New York, in 1977. Ibram Lassaw died in The Springs, East Hampton, New York, December 30, 2003.