March 8 - April 14, 2001 at Grant Selwyn Fine Arts
by Kathy Zimmerer
The eerie bronze sentinels march in a quiet procession in Magdalena Abakanowiczs new series of figures and figurative fragments. Early on in her career Abakanowicz was a painter, then she became famous for her organic textile reliefs that were expressive, monumental, and evocative of the human condition. Her use of natural materials was in response to the dire economic conditions in Poland, but her eloquent use of these materials imbued her textiles with great presence. Gradually, during the 1970s, these textile forms morphed into plaster figures covered with burlap, sisal, glue and resin, which had a depth and poetic sensibility.
"Sitting Figure on a Short Bench",
bronze, 65 x 40 x 25", 2000.
"Katarsis (33 Figures)", bronze,
106.3 x 39.37 x 19.69", 1985.
"Female Figures (6 Figures)", bronze,
72 7/8 x 20 1/8 x 14 1/8", 1998-99.
|Sitting Figure on a Short Bench has a whimsical air, as this sturdy headless figure perches on an oversized stool. The deep scratches that run through the surface of the figure and the missing arms and head counterbalance this playfulness. Abakanowiczs enigmatic figures challenge you to question your own humanity.
The most powerful sculpture, Female Figures (6 Figures), lines up 6 strongly modeled figures who lack both their heads and arms. With their backs facing the viewer, this strangely silent gathering seems united yet fragmented at the same time. A feeling of emotional strength is conveyed by these figures, for they are powerfully built and monumental. Yet a deeper feeling of human fragility is underscored by their awkward but defiant stance.
Abakanowiczs genius at gathering a group of figures and creating an eloquent whole is evident throughout her work, while her emphasis on individual personalities is stressed in their expressive surface textures and subtle poses. Her leitmotif of the human image is encapsulated in figures that exist in a dream world of her own making.