Artwork Detail

Presence
1960
American, 1913–2003
Welded metal
12 x 7 x 4 '
Gift of Mrs. Mark C. Steinberg, 1960
WU 3887
The American sculptor Ibram Lassaw was one of a handful of modernist sculptors associated with Abstract Expressionism, a postwar movement that is predominantly associated with painting. As a medium, sculpture was often overlooked by critics at the time in both Europe and the United States who interpreted its traditionally unyielding materials as lacking the expressive force of lyrical or gestural abstraction being explored in painting. Lassaw’s sculpture Presence, made in 1960, forgoes any central focal point, creating an open-space metal scaffolding of irregular lines and voids—what he called a “drawing in space.” More air than solid matter, the asymmetrical composition and irregular, multicolored surface infuse the piece with a quiet, biomorphic quality. Lassaw drew direct inspiration from developments in science, especially the exploration of outer space. While the seemingly spontaneously welded linear rods echo the type of allover composition demonstrated in Abstract Expressionist paintings such as Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, they also reveal an interest in the internal structures found in nature, cosmology, and astronomy. [Cell phone tour, 2019]