- Abakanowicz, Magdalena
born June 20, 1930, Falenty, Pol.Polish sculptor.A descendant of nobility, she graduated from Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts in 1955. She became the pioneer and leading exponent of sculpture made of woven fabrics, calling her three-dimensional weavings "Abakans" (from her surname). She produced series of fabric forms called Heads (1975), Backs (1976–80), Embryology (1980), and Catharsis (1986). She has also exhibited paintings, drawings, and sculptures in other media internationally and has been widely imitated in Europe and the U.S.
* * *▪ Polish artistborn June 20, 1930, Falenty, PolandPolish artist whose massive series of sculptures earned her international acclaim.A descendant of Polish nobility, Abakanowicz studied at the School of Fine Arts in Sopot, Poland (1949), and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1954). She began working as an independent artist in 1956 and initially earned success for large, three-dimensional woven sculptures known as Abakans, a derivation of her family name. These monumental, often garmentlike, pieces are ambiguous and compelling. Although initially Abakanowicz was best known for her work with textiles, she also exhibited paintings and drawings. Her later work, generally made of hard surfaces—though several contained fibres, rope, or textiles—characteristically employed groupings of repeated forms often based on the human body (described by one critic as “headless human husks”) or on animals or trees. These forms are similar in appearance and gesture to one another, but each has its individuality. Works such as Heads (1975), Backs (1976–82), and Embryology (1978–81) were composed of multiple forms, primarily made of organic materials such as burlap, rope, and canvas. Much of her later work was done in bronze, stone, or concrete: Katarsis (1985; 33 cast bronze sculptures); Becalmed Beings (1993; 40 cast bronze figures); and Space of Stone (2003; 22 granite blocks). Many are large permanent outdoor installations. These are scattered throughout the world in places such as Jerusalem; Seoul; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Lisbon; Paris; and New York City.Her artwork appeared internationally in more than 100 group and solo exhibitions. From 1965, she taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland, becoming a professor in 1979.Additional ReadingStudies include Barbara Rose, Magdalena Abakanowicz (1994); and Joanna Inglot, The Figurative Sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz: Bodies, Environments, and Myths (2004).
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