March 28, 2009 - Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro - Magdalena Abakanowicz
March 28, 2009

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Jan Nordahl

Magdalena Abakanowicz
10 April – 26 June 2009

Via Andrea Solari,
35 – 20144 Milano,
tel. 02.89075394


The 2009 exhibition season at the Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro in Milan opens with a show by Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930), one of the most authoritative exponents of contemporary sculpture at an international level. Winner of the gold medal at the 7th International São Paulo Art Biennial in 1956, sole representative of her country in the Polish Pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale, she has been celebrated by a retrospective staged at the Palacio de Cristal, Madrid, and the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, in 2008. The same year the Tate Modern acquired her imposing work Embryology, which will be on display in Milan.

Magdalena Abakanowicz has become one of the most highly regarded voices on the world art scene, changing the significance of sculpture from an object to look at to a `space to experience´, as the title of the initiative puts it, through creations based primarily on the human or animal form, whose organic structure is used metaphorically to raise a spiritual or philosophical question.

Whence a total elasticity in the use of materials, which range from Cor-Ten steel to bronze and aluminium but also include rope, yarn, tangles of jute and other soft materials that share the attitude of anti-form artists from the sixties and seventies.

The solo exhibition, the first retrospective in Italy, will show ampong all also the famous red and orange Abakans, erotic and strong images coming from the Tate Modern in London.

Magdalena Abakanowicz was born in Poland in 1930 to a family of landowners of aristocratic origin. On the outbreak of war she was forced to move to Warsaw, where she embarked on her artistic career and where she still lives and works today. In the early days she was treated with suspicion by the Polish regime and was obliged to work in secret and without adequate spaces. What chiefly worried the authorities was the antiheroic, yielding nature of her work, decidedly in conflict with the dominant political values. Abakanowicz creates soft and flexible structures, forms woven out of different fibres, rough to the touch. The Abakans series (1965-75), whose title derives from her own surname, made clear her desire to occupy space so that people could go inside the work, as the sensation of inwardness had become a condition necessary to its comprehension. The metaphorical language of her work is revealed in the `unrepeatability within such quantity. A crowd of people or birds, insects or leaves is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype, a riddle of nature abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand cannot repeat its own gesture´ (M. Abakanowicz). The artist analyzes the point at which the organic meets the non-organic, at which what is still alive encounters what is already dead, where everything that is oppressed come into contact with everything that struggles for liberation: Embryology (1978-81) takes the form of a sequence of about 800 potato- shaped modules of various sizes, sewn out of burlap and sisal; those forms were later to turn into seated or standing human figures, figures without heads, hands or backs (the series Heads, Backs, Crowds). Her works gradually became more massive, but continued to be made from fragile and perishable materials; each figure is an individuality amidst the crowd, and thus has its own expression, with specific details of the skin; the surface is natural like the bark of a tree or the coat of an animal; it is the fingerprint left by the artist on the work.

From 1965 to 1990 Magdalena Abakanowicz taught at the Academy of Fine Arts at Poznan in Poland and in 1984 was visiting professor at the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). She has received numerous awards at an international level, from the Royal College of Art in London, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Pratt Institute School of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Polish Academies of Fine Arts in Lodz and Poznan and the Akademien der Künste in Berlin and Dresden.

Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro – tel. 02.89075394

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