Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction

Magdalena Abakanowicz. Yellow Abakan. 1967–1968 495

Sisal, 124 x 120 x 60" (315 x 304.8 x 152.4 cm). Gift of Mr. Walter Bareiss, Mrs. Watson K. Blair, Mr. Arthur Cohen, Mr. Don Page, and Anonymous Donor. © 2021 Magdalena Abakanowicz

Juliet Kinchin: Magdalena Abakanowicz is one of a generation of designers, artists, who were deliberately trying to blur distinctions between art and craft and design, exploring the aesthetic and structural qualities of fiber in new contexts.

This massive work fuses weaving with sculptural installation, creating this extremely disquieting presence. And that has a lot to do with the manipulation of the fibers, which is very coarsely woven from sisal, this industrial plant fiber.

And it's a materiality which is enhanced by these scarred seams and almost anatomical aspects of the piece.

Many artists in the former Soviet-bloc countries, in particular Poland, had a very strong textile tradition. Many fine artists were attracted to this medium of expression, which was less subject to Soviet censorship than the very public media of painting and architecture.

These are the words of Magdalena Abakanowicz:
“Making ABAKAN, I wanted to prove that the colour doesn’t decorate, but has an unusual power when it is built into a shape that’s simple and strong.

There is a mystery in this soft, heavy sculpture suspended in space, it reacts to motion of air, which folds its surface in a rich gesture, as slow as the movements of life under water could be.”

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