These cushions are based on casts Szapocznikow made of her friend’s belly. They were created as prototypes for mass production, although, like the lamps also on view in this exhibition, they were never used for this purpose. For Szapocznikow, polyurethane foam and polyester resin, which she used increasingly in her sculpture at this time, were inherently modern mediums. She said, “Plastic materials … seem perfect to me for attempts to express and capture our age because of their repetitive possibilities, their lightness, their colors, their transparency, their inexpensiveness.”
Gallery label from Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972, October 7, 2012–January 28, 2013.
This is one of the first works Szapocznikow made using polyurethane, a versatile industrial material that was first produced in the 1960s. She cast a friend’s belly in soft polyurethane foam, planning to create over one hundred copies to be sold as sofa cushions. Seen in isolation from the rest of the body, and multiplied five times, the form here becomes abstract, taking on an uncanny quality that belies its utilitarian purpose. For Szapocznikow, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, casting from bodies was a means to process her present circumstances and past traumas, “to preserve the fleeting moments of my life … its paradoxes and complete absurdity.”
Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 - August 13, 2017.