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Magdalena Abakanowicz

1. © photographer

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

Born in 1930 to an aristocratic Polish family, Magdalena Abakanowicz experienced an isolated childhood on her family’s estate outside Warsaw, Poland. The onset of World War II, the suffering brought on by the subsequent Nazi occupation of Poland, as well as the later restrictions and depravation under Communism, stripped the family of all their property and position. Throughout her career the themes in her art would directly lead back to her early life experiences, although her language was universal.
In the 1950s Abakanowicz studied at the Academy of Art in Warsaw but found the environment restrictive and she rebelled against the decree for social realism. Her series of ‘Abakans’ (3-dimensional fiber sculptures) created in the mid-1960s brought attention from the international art community and upon receiving the gold medal at the Sao Paolo Bienal, she received offers for exhibitions all over the world. Several of her works were included in the first Museum exhibition in 1993 at Grounds For Sculpture, and she was given a one-person exhibition in the same building in 1996, which exhibited 25 of the artist’s works.
Themes of isolation, anonymity, obedience, and oppression are common threads in her work. Spatial experience is an essential part of her work as well, and Abakanowicz often combines groups of figures or animals that occupy a single space. Though on the surface each is a multiple, each figure is unique.

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