Magdalena Abakanowicz

Tate Modern launches a huge retrospective of one of Poland's most groundbreaking artists. Peter Gray reports.

Tate Modern’s forthcoming  Magdalena Abakanowicz exhibition will offer visitors a rare opportunity to get to know the work of this ground-breaking master.

Widely regarded as one of Poland’s most significant artists, Abakanowicz is chiefly known for her Abakans, a series of monumental sculptures which the artist began to create in the 1960s.

Made of hand manipulated sisal material, the pieces took on a variety of shapes and guises, often including human forms, and were frequently displayed in groups.

Noted for their unnerving effect on observers, the Abakan’s were often installed in the most unexpected of places, heightening the disconcerting effect of discovering the works.

Magdalena Abakanowicz had this to say of her most successful work:  “The Abakans irritated. They were untimely. There was the French tapestry in weaving, pop-art and conceptual art, and here were these complicated, huge, magical forms”.

The Tate’s new exhibition will explore the relationship between these ground breaking pieces and Abakanowicz’s other major works, such as War Games.

The artist had always toyed with references to war and destruction. An early series of sculptures, Alterations, featured figures who were F frequently missing body parts.

However, her War Games series of works saw the artist go one step further, creating a series of monumental pieces which recalled the shapes of artillery vehicles. Fashioned from the trunks of dead trees with their branches and bark removed, the sculptures were placed on massive metal stands.

Abakanowicz was born in pre Soviet Poland in 1930. Her family were of distinguished stock, with her mother able to trace her family back to the Polish nobility and her Father’s line going back to a 13th-century Mongol knight.

 A teenager during the second World War, the artist was also forced to witness the Soviet and Nazi annexing and division of the country at the start of the war.

These experiences shaped her world view and meant that Abakanowicz was ever after continually driven to express her views about the futility of war through her art.

In her latter years, Abakanowicz was also a professor of art. From 1965 to 1990 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, and also briefly in 1984 at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Magdalena Abakanowicz will run between the 17th of June and the 13th of September 2020 at Tate Modern. For more information click here.

For information on other art exhibitions in London, please click here.


-London's Best Events-
What: new exhibition
When: 17 Jun – 13 Sept 2020
Where: Tate Modern