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Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, b.1930) is best known for her textile sculptures of biomorphic forms. At the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts she studied drawing and painting in the Socialist Realist style, as well as textile design, screen printing, and fiber design. Her early work includes a series of gouaches and watercolors on linen sheets, which depict imaginary plants and animals. After she graduated, the Polish government was less strict about the form and content of art, and artists were allowed to travel to Western cities. Abakanowicz was particularly influenced by the geometric structures of Constructivist art. Her series Abakans, begun in 1967, are giant sculptures, woven from a variety of fibers, that hang a few inches off the ground.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Abakanowicz made several series of anthropomorphic textile sculptures. Backs (1976–1980) was a series of 80 versions of the human trunk made from burlap and resin, and Embryology (1978–1980) consisted of approximately 800 round forms of various sizes, made from burlap, gauze, and hemp. These organic sculptures examine the role of individual creativity within the crowd. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Abakanowicz produced sculptures in bronze, wood, stone, and clay, including her Bronze Crowd (1990) and Puellae (1992) series. For the War Games series, begun in 1987, Abakanowicz stripped off the bark of trees that were abandoned by foresters near Warsaw, and remodeled each trunk with metal parts. This series represents her life-long interest in nature, dismemberment, and regeneration.
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