Review of the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz- Contemporary Artist Large Scale Woven Textile Sculptures of Biomorphic Forms

Magdalena Abakanowicz Yellow Abakan1967–1968 MoMA Brute Material: Fiber into Form, April 5, 2013. Abakanowicz’s massive fibre works fuse weaving with sculpture and installation to create objects with a disquieting and visceral presence. Yellow Abakan’s form is determined by the drape of the textile, which is coarsely woven from sisal, an industrial plant fibre used to make rope. The scarred seams and anatomical appendages acknowledged the figural quality which was explored in large-scale sculptures cast in hardened fibre.

Magdalena Abakanowicz was a contemporary Polish artist known for her textile sculptures of biomorphic forms, of her use of non-traditional materials and genres. She manipulated textiles like burlap, which was a used coarse canvas woven from jute or hemp to create monumental hanging textiles, which she named “Abakans.” They function as both objects and spaces to infer vulnerability within human individuality. Abakanowicz’s art was affected by her experiences in Poland under Nazi and Soviet occupation during World War II and its aftermath, her work often possessed an ambiguity that encouraged multiple interpretations, which reflected a range of human experience. Abakans (1965-1975) referred to her large-scale fibre works and was in reference to her own name and through this series of experimentation she innovated. The artist designed on paperboard and commissioned craftsmen to make so she was able to increase the scale of her textural sculptures which symbolised for her freedom. Through such enlarged scale she was able to communicate her concern for man and the environment within a cultural and socio-political context while maintaining her autonomy. As Magdalena Abakanowicz noted my work comes from the experience of crowds, injustice and aggression… I feel an affinity for art when it was made of existence, of experiencing in the world.

Magdalena Abakanowicz Abakan Red 1969 Tate Presented anonymously 2009 © Magdalena Abakanowicz Foundation

Natural elements inspired this artist which often evoked emotional responses in process as she sought to be one with nature. Sisal weaving was often used in this artists textile work or Abakan installations as sisal was a natural fibre and remains an ego-friendly option, it is both a sustainable resource and grown with no or very few pesticides and herbicides to reduce any possible damage to the environment. Given her innovative art practice she created a new relationship with materials, sculpture, the environment and three-dimensional forms. I have been impressed by Magdalena Abakanowicz and her monumental use of scale, of her capacity to utilise the materials properties including sisal to such good effect, to forge an emotional connection between the materials used and the context in which she worked.

TURQUOISE ABAKANS Magdalena Abakanowicz 1969/1972, sisal weaving 300 x 300 x 350 cm, collection of the artist
BROWN ABAKANS Magdalena Abakanowicz 1969/1972, sisal weaving 300 x 300 x 350 cm, collection of the artist
This is the third exhibition in the history of the Polish Sculpture Center of the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. At the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, the most famous Abakans, such as “Sky”, “Tuba,” “Black clothing” and “Lady”, are accompanied by sculptures made by the artist from resin-cured jute canvas, including “Heads” (1973–1975), “Standing figures” (1986–1987), “Backs” (1976) and “Oracz” (1996–1997).

In concluding this blog post I have been left with so many more ideas concerning my own weaving projects and the use of scale, of thinking more deeply about my relationship with materials and how I work with them to connect emotionally with the context in which I work. I aim to continue to research weaving methods and materials and their meaning, to integrate weaving more completely within my current creative process.

This is the third exhibition in the history of the Polish Sculpture Center of the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. At the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, the most famous Abakans, such as “Sky”, “Tuba,” “Black clothing” and “Lady”, are accompanied by sculptures made by the artist from resin-cured jute canvas, including “Heads” (1973–1975), “Standing figures” (1986–1987), “Backs” (1976) and “Oracz” (1996–1997).
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Coquillages (Seashells), 1973 (Fondation Toms Pauli, Lausanne); photo Elisabeth Brenner Remberg

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