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Magdalena Abakanowicz

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1 Magdalena Abakanowicz
ABAKAN RED 1969  1969, sisal weaving on metal support  300 x 300 x 100 cm 

2 Magdalena Abakanowicz (born June 20, 1930, in Falenty, Poland) is a Polish sculptor.
Magdalena Abakanowicz was born in an aristocratic Polish-Russian family on her parent’s estate in Poland. The war broke out when she was nine years old. Then came the revolution imposed by Russia and the forty-five years of Soviet domination.  Magdalena was 12 years old in 1942 when she experianced the war in Poland first hand. “One could only escape from the human cruelty inside oneself (into the world of dreams and imagination)…” Magda remembers starting to work with cloth because it could be folded and stored under the bed. Magda graduated the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw 1956 and began work at Milanowek as a tie designer in a silk factory. In her free time she taught herself how to weave. She loved the uneven surface that she was creating on her frame loom.

3 Magdalena Abakanowicz in Maria Laszkiewicz’s basement, warsaw,1964

4 In 1962 She was commissioned by the polish government to create a piece for the 1st International Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland. It required a tapestry be no less than 12 square meters. Weaving with clothes line and rope, her unique piece made a great impact in the show.

5 “Composition of white Forms” 1961-62
Part of the 1st Lausanne Tapestry Biennial, Switzerland

6 Magdalena Abakanowicz “Dorota”1964

7 During the 1970s, and into the 1980s, Abakanowicz changed medium and scale; she began a series of figurative and non-figurative sculptures made out of pieces of coarse sackcloth which she sewed and pieced together and bonded with synthetic resins. In the late 1980s to 1990s Abakanowicz began to use metals, such as bronze, for her sculptures, as well as wood, stone, and clay. She is notable for her use of textiles as a sculptural medium and is regarded as being one of the most important and influential female artists of the 20th century. She has been a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland from 1965 to 1990 and a visiting professor at UCLA in Magdalena Abakanowicz currently lives and works in Warsaw.

8 Magdalena Abakanowicz with students at the University of Poznan, Poland, 1981


10 At first Magda created the pieces herself than she she had others help her the prep work in creating her pieces (washing dyeing, winding the tread and the countless tasks before starting to weave the piece). The materials fro her pieces can from a variety of sources, mostly cast-offs from different factories. Hemp flax, sisal from shoe factories. Horsehair and wool from the countryside. Maga believed in all organic processes and that were traditional materials of the past. This enabled her to manipulate both nature and the past. She works with her hands and thinks of her work as a protest against the misuses of the environment.

11 “I like neither rules nor prescriptions, these enemies of imagination”
In 1966 she create her first woven forms that were independent of the walls and existed in space. “ My particular aim is to create possibilities for complete communion with an object whose structure is complex and soft. “

12 BLACK ENVIRONMENT  , sisal weaving, fifteen pieces  each on metal support  fifteen pieces, each :  300 x 80 x 80 cm 

13 Magdalena Abakanowicz in front of Bois-le-Due It was the largest of her compostion at the time. 2 X 20 X 2 meters. Like many of her pieces at the time. Some of the segments turn into bronze towards one end and others into red.

14 Sampler

15 SCHIZOID HEADS  , Burlap and hemp rope on metal support  Sixteen pieces: from 84 x 51 x 66 cm to 109 x 76 x 71 cm  Art needs somebody to listen to its message, somebody to desire it, somebody to drink it, to use it like wine - otherwise it makes no sense. What is sculpture? With impressive continuity it testifies to man's evolving sense of reality, and fulfils the necessity to express what cannot be verbalized.

16 EMBRYOLOGY AT THE VENICE BIENNALE 1980  , Burlap, cotton gauze, hemp rope, nylon and sisal  Approximately 800 pieces: from 4 to 250 cm long  Collection of the artist

17 Magdalena Abakanowicz for many years has dealt with the issue of "the countless". She says: "I feel overwhelmed by quantity where counting no longer makes sense. A crowd of people or birds, insect or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype, a riddle of nature abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture". 

18 Her art has always addressed the problems of dignity and courage
Her art has always addressed the problems of dignity and courage. This dignity resistance and will of survival conceal her individual personal affinities to the culture of Poland. The metaphoric language of her work has achieved a point of junction, which still is a challenge for mankind, for all its sophisticated civilisation. This is the point where the organic meets the non - organic, where the still alive meets that which is already dead, where all that exist in oppression meet all that strive for liberation in every meaning of this word.  

19 Like all her sculptures also these works are unique objects.
SEATED FIGURES  , figures: burlap and resin, pedestal: steel  Eighteen pieces, each figure ca. 104 x 51 x 66 cm  Each of her figures is an individuality, with its own expression, with specific details of skin. Organic, with the imprint of the artist's fingers. Their surface is natural like tree bark or animal fur or wrinkled skin. Like all her sculptures also these works are unique objects. 

20 “The Session (16 Backs) 1976-77 at the
Malmo Konsthall.Sweden

21 “Backs” Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

22 AGORA  , iron  106 figures x x cm  Permanent installation in Grant Park, Chicago  The entire population of her figures is enough to fill a large public square. They are today over thousand but they have never been seen together. They remain in various museums, public and private collections in different parts of the world. They constitute a warning, a lasting anxiety. 

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