The artist with Abakan Red (1969), Zacheta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, Warsaw, 1975.
Photo: Jan Nordahl, © The Estate of Magdalena Abakanowicz
Marlborough Gallery


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Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sculptor of Brooding Forms, Dies on April 20 at 86
William Grimes of the NewYorkTimes wrote: Magdalena Abakanowicz, a Polish sculptor who transformed sisal and burlap into brooding forms that evoked the weight of political oppression, the desperation of the individual and the sufferings of the natural world, died on Thursday in Warsaw. She was 86.
She died after a long illness, her husband, Jan Kosmowski, said.

Ms. Abakanowicz who once described her sculpture as “a search for organic mysteries,” first attracted critical attention in the 1960s with free-standing woven works made from sisal that she unraveled from discarded ships’ ropes and dyed.

These Abakans, as they became known, were monumental, some more than 15 feet tall, hollow at the core and fitted with slits and folds. Hanging from the ceiling, nearly touching the floor, they resembled shrouds, twisted tree trunks, cocoons or druid priests — strange 

Posted 15 June 2017

Art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. It opens our eyes to see and our brain to imagine. Magdalena Abakanowicz

Abakanowicz studied at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts between 1950-1954. For a time she tried her hand at painting, producing monumental gouache compositions on cardboard and canvas. wrote:
Abakanowicz's later series tended likewise to be made from pieces of coarse sackcloth which she sewed and pieced together, bonding it with synthetic resin. This is how she made Alteracje / Alterations (1974-5) - twelve hollowed-out human figures sitting in a row; Glowy / Heads (1973-5) - a series of enormous, solid forms remindful of human heads without faces; Plecy / Backs (1976-80) - eighty slightly differing negatives of the human trunk; Tlum I / The Crowd I (1986-7) - fifty standing figures; Ragazzi (1990) - forty 'skins' stripped off young boys; and Infantes (1992), 30 Odwróconych / 30 Backward seated Figures (1993-4), 7 Figur Tanczacych / 7 Dancing Figures (2001-2).

The basic reference of Abakanowicz’s works has been man, his condition and position in modern world, and most of all his confusion by the excess and anonymity in the crowd. This is reflected in her sculptures of the 1980s and 1990s, in which she used new materials: metal (mostly bronze, such as in the series Bronze Crowd, 1990-91 Puellae, 1992), wood, stone, and sometimes clay.
The Marlborough Gallery wrote on the exposition MAGDALENA ABAKANOWICZ
UNREPEATABILITY: ABAKAN TO CROWD in 2015: Abakanowicz emerged as an artist in a Poland devastated by World War II. The politically charged but emotional work reminds us of the nature of the human condition, its inherent impermanence rendered immutable. In her essay for the exhibition’s catalogue, curator Jacob states, “... the human drama, its pain yet invisibility are no less relevant after the fall of Communism than now, for as Magdalena Abakanowicz knows and has experienced, we are but one cycle in an ongoing story.”
In the released illustrated catalogue Magdalena Abakanowicz: A Survey 1987-2009 in 2013, the gallery describes:
"Much has been written about Abakanowicz’s life, how she emerged as an artist from war torn Poland, and her unique vision. Writers have commented on her distinct sculptural vocabulary, its original use of materials and figurative form. Her work is capable of invoking deep feeling and can reach into a timeless, mythic quality. Robert Hughes in Time magazine referred to its “dark vision of primal myth” and Barbara Rose, in her monograph, Magdalena Abakanowicz (Abrams, 1994) wrote the artist is “a shaman who receives and transmits messages in a visual language that is more universal than words.” Abakanowicz, a deep thinker (Michael Brenson said she has one of the most original minds he has encountered), said of her own works, “Longings, disappointments, and fears teach me how to build their shapes. My imagination makes a choice.”

Among the seminal works exhibited, both the Anonymous Portrait series, 1987 and the Anonim series, 2009 depict disembodied heads that appear to be scarred and deformed. In the essay for this exhibition catalog Mary Jane Jacob writes that Abakanowicz has had over 150 solo exhibitions in Europe, North and South America, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. She has exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Jardins du Palais Royal in Paris and the Muzeum Narodowe in Poznan. Her most recent solo exhibitions include the Palacio de Cristal, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid and Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia, both in 2008, and the Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, Milan, in 2009. Several works were exhibited in the ‘Energy and Process’ wing at the Tate Modern for the duration of 2010, and her survey exhibition The Human Adventure at the Akbank Art Center, Istanbul, recently ended in January 2013.

Among numerous awards and distinctions, Abakanowicz has received seven honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and the United States as well as the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France. She was a lso awarded the prestigious International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In the past twenty years Abakanowicz has developed a number of site-specific sculpture installations that incorporate multiple figures or elements of increased scale. Among these are Negev at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1987; Space of Dragon, Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea, 1985; Becalmed Beings, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan, 1993; Space of Unknown Growth, Europos Parkas, Lithuania, 1997-98; Unrecognized, Citadel Park, Poznan, Poland, 2002; Space of Stone, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, 2003 and, most recently, Agora, a sculptural group comprised of 106 unique cast-iron figures measuring over nine-feet tall that was permanently installed in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2006.

Abakanowicz’s work can be found in numerous public collections including the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; National Gal- lery of Art, Washington and the Sezon Museum, Tokyo, among others."
See the Agenda> Museum of Contemporary Art, Wroclaw, Poland

See the Agenda> Marlborough Gallery, New York

Seee the Agenda> TheWhitworth

See the Agenda> Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice


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