Through Sunday, December 3
Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second Street, Davenport IA
Boasting 36 unique examples of jewelry as well as nine of the artist's signature sculptures created over a span of five decades, the Figge Art Museum exhibition Quanta of Space: The Bosom Sculpture of Ibram Lassaw will be on display in the Davenport venue through December 3, its Katz Gallery showcase demonstrating the artistic gifts of the Russian-American sculptor revered for his non-objective construction in brazed metals.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, of Russian émigré parents, Lassaw originally came to the United States in 1921, and became a citizen in 1928. He first studied sculpture at the Clay Club and later at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York, and also made abstract paintings and drawings influenced by Kandinsky, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and other artists. Influenced by his study of art history and readings in European art magazines, Lassaw began to make sculpture in the late 1920s, and during the mid-1930s, he worked briefly for the Public Works of Art Project cleaning sculptural monuments around New York City. He 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, and his promotion of modernist styles during the 1930s did much to insure the growth of abstract art in the United States. The artist was a part of the New York School of Abstract expressionism during the 1940s and 1950s, and from 1955 to 1963, before he moved there permanently, Lassaw spent summers on the southern shore of Long Island alongside artists including Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, James Brooks, John Ferren, and Willem de Kooning. With the artist having passed in 2003, Lassaw's work has been exhibited in venues including the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York City and Harmon Meek Gallery in Naples, Florida.
Although remembered as one of a few pioneering Abstract Expressionist sculptors, Lassaw was less well known for his wearable sculptures, and between 1951 and the late 1990s, he produced an extraordinary array of jewelry for family and friends. Employing unique combinations of metals as well as the techniques, colors, and forms found in his large-scale direct metal sculptures, his welded and brazed necklaces and broaches embody Lassaw's interests in automatic drawing and surrealist impulses, as well as diverse interests in Zen Buddhism, Cosmology, and quantum physics.
Quanta of Space: The Bosom Sculpture of Ibram Lassaw is the first-ever exhibition to focus on Lassaw’s innovative “Bosom Sculptures,” and marks the first time Lassaw’s work will be exhibited in the state of Iowa. “In Quanta of Space, we’re granted the rare privilege of glimpsing Ibram Lassaw’s creative spirit manifested in intimate form," said Michelle Hargrave, the Figge’s Executive Director and CEO. "Each piece of wearable art invites us into a deeply personal realm where abstract expressionism meets everyday life,”
Lassaw incorporates unique combinations of metals with the techniques, colors, and forms found in his large-scale direct metal sculptures into his wearable sculptures. His inspiration comes from automatic drawing, surrealist impulses, Zen Buddhism, cosmetology, and quantum physics, making his art an expression of his multifaceted interests. “The more closely we look at Lassaw’s necklaces and pendants, the more we can find in them the shapes and forms of the macro and microcosms of which we are a part,” said Figge Director of Collections and Exhibitions Andrew Wallace. “His forward thinking resulted in the creation of works that transcended the prevailing styles of his day which, in many respects, helps them to remain timelessly modern."
This exhibition isn’t just another retrospective because it features Lassaw’s innovative “Bosom Sculptures.” Typically, jewelry is often seen as a separate endeavor from larger artistic projects like sculpture and painting. However, this exhibition makes it clear that for Lassaw, jewelry is not just an accessory but an extension of his artistic universe. The inclusion of these unique pieces alongside his better-known works gives visitors the opportunity to experience Lassaw’s artistic range and mastery while considering the fluid boundaries between art and craft. Quanta of Space: The Bosom Sculpture of Ibram Lassaw will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue edited by Andrew Wallace, with essays by Nancy G. Heller, Denise Lassaw, and Marin R. Sullivan. Catalogue essays provide context to his life, his contributions to Modernist studio jewelry at mid-century, and the forces that inspired him, with the exhibit's contributing sponsors including Wynne and David Schafer and Expressions Jewelers, and the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities acting as program sponsor.
Quanta of Space: The Bosom Sculpture of Ibram Lassaw will be on display through December 3, with regular museum hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays (10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays) and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Museum admission is $4-10, with victors admitted free throughout the month of July, and more information is available by calling (563)326-7804 and visiting FiggeArtMuseum.org.