Artist retreived from the Smithsonian “Miscellaneous Box” No.1 : Ibram Lassar.

Crop from original photograph “Ibram Lasser at work in his studio at Duke University 1966.”. From the “Miscellaneous photographs circa 1845-1980” collection at the Smithsonian archive.
Reverse of print. From the Miscellaneous photographs circa 1845-1980″ collection at the Smithsonian archive.

Deep in the Smithsonian archives there’s a box of photographs labelled “Miscellaneous photographs circa 1845-1980”. Around 150 sepia toned images of artists in their studios, with their models, with their finished artworks, with their work in progress or simply posing in their studios as in the photo of Ibram Lassar above. Putting work to the faces in the Miscellaneous collection reveals a wonderfully random array (an authentic miscellany even) of American art & artists for the equally arbritary 1845-1980 period. Shining the briefest of investigative light onto some of them reveals some of the genuinely undersung fringe artists & other photos give us new glimpses & insight on more known artists.

We’ve picked three and put some art to the faces.

So. The art behind the face in Miscellaneous Box photo No. 1. : Ibram Lassar

Untitled, Ibram Lassaw Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), from the portfolio American Abstract Artists, 1937, offset lithograph on paper,
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost.
Untitled, Ibram Lassaw Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), from the portfolio 22 Peace Portfolio, 1970, screenprint,
Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis.
Maze, Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003) from American Abstract Artists 60th Anniversary Print Portfolio of 1997.
Arachne, Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), from the American-Abstract Artists 50th-Anniversary Print Portfolio of 1987, lithograph on paper,
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of American Abstract Artists.
Untitled, Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), 1970. lithograph.
Untitled, Ibram Lassar (1913-2003), 1959, ink on paper.
Continuity No. 1, 1979, Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), screenprint in colors.
Banquet, 1961, Ibram Lassaw bronze,
Smithsonian American Art Museum gift of Harold Tager Jr.

Ibram Lassaw’s sculptures resembling spiny sea forms were inspired by coral reefs, which he saw as  “living sculptures.” To create Banquet, he painstakingly added one drop of melted bronze to another, mimicking the natural growth of the coral. He then added different chemical patinas to give the work a variety of colors that evoke an underwater environment. Lassaw thought this piece  “peculiar” because he normally created entirely abstract constructions that did not resemble anything. In the early 1960s, however, he started creating more representational works in response to the declining popularity of his work. (Ibram Lassaw Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Lassaw,  “Perspectives and Reflections of a Sculptor: A Memoir,” Leonardo, January 1968)

Banquet is one of my most original sculptures – peculiar to me and the style I am known best for – it really is me at my best.” Ibram Lassaw.

The Hyades, 1951, Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), bronze, Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost.

Lassaw gave many of his sculptures titles based on stars and galaxies, naming The Hyades for an open cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation. He asserted that he did not intend to create constellations, but saw similarities between the completed sculptures and the arrangement of stars and planets in space. In The Hyades he created the initial shape from welded wire, then gradually built up the form using drips of molten bronze.

“One must think and dream directly with the material. The experience of manipulating material teaches the imagination.” Ibram Lassaw, Leonardo, October 1968.

Loom III, 1966, Ibram Lassaw (1913-2003), bronze.

Smithsonian “Miscellaneous Box” No.2 : Randal Davey

Smithsonian “Miscellaneous Box” No.3 : Walt Kuhn.

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