Ibram Lassaw Kwannon 1952

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 404 The David Geffen Galleries

This work was inspired by Kwannon (also known as Kannon), the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Lassaw, who became interested in Zen Buddhism during the 1950s, worked intuitively and spontaneously. To make this sculpture, he began by “drawing in space,” constructing an open lattice structure with steel wire. He then melted bronze over that framework using an oxyacetylene torch, letting the metal harden into gobs over the wire. The artist made more changes, including breaking off and welding new parts, until he felt that he had achieved a balance of form and space.

Gallery label from 2023
Additional text

This sculpture represents Kwannon (also known as Kannon), the Buddhist goddess of mercy and an attendant of Buddha. Lassaw thickened steel wire with molten bronze, creating an openwork metal scaffolding of irregular lines and voids—what he called a “drawing in space.” Lassaw wrote of this abstract figure, “Although I never try to depict or narrate or communicate, I feel that something of Kwannon entered this piece of sculpture.”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011
Welded bronze
6' 1/2" x 43" x 29" (184.2 x 109.2 x 73.7 cm)
Katharine Cornell Fund
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].