Saturday 18 February 2023

Magdalena Abakanowicz at Tate Modern, London

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Abakan January-February

This exhibition - Every Tangle of Thread and Rope - is definitely not to be missed.  If you can get there - GO!  Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930-2017) was a Polish artist, most well known for her monumental woven structures of the 1960s and 1970s known as Abakans, which were named after her.   

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Design for Tapisserie 21 Brune

She studied painting and weaving at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, graduating in 1954.  At this time the Soviet regime was becoming more liberal and there were funding opportunities for craft and folk art through the state sponsored Association of Polish Artists which she took advantage of.  Artists designed items that were then produced by artisans.

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Tapisserie 21 Brune
(Woven by Maria Lydzba)

She lived in a studio apartment in Warsaw with her husband where creating artworks that could be folded up was a distinct advantage.  Her style of weaving was improvisatory.

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Abakan Orange (1968)

She saw a strong connection between her work and the natural world, seeing fibre as the basic element making up the organic world.  She said "It is from fibre that all living organisms are built, the tissue of plants, leaves and ourselves... our nerves, our genetic code, the canals of out veins, our muscles...We are fibrous structures."

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Abakan Red

Her weavings use sisal and sometimes wool, horsehair and rope and move from the rectangular to the more organic 3D free-hanging Abakans. Referring to her installations as "environments" Abakanowicz was interested on the immersive and performative possibilities of her arrangements in particular spaces and liked to light them dramatically.

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Abakan Yellow

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Abakan Orange (1971)

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Abakan Orange (1971) detail

Some of her works bring to mind garments and others body parts with elements spilling out of them.  I think her Abakan January-February (see first image) looks like a pair of lungs.

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Situation Variable 2

Abakanowicz's work brought to mind that of Sheila Hicks who was also making remarkable textile art in the same period and upto the present. (You can read more about Hick's exhibition "Off Grid" at The Hepworth, Wakefield in 2022 here). 

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Embryology 

In the 1980s Abakanowicz began to move away from the exclusive use of fibres and never liked being referred to as a fibre artist.  

Magdalena Abakanowicz - Anasta

To my mind her Abakans are her triumph which are completely spellbinding.  It's a marvellous exhibition - on until 21 May 2023. 

No comments:

Post a Comment