Magdalena Abakanowicz was born June 20, 1930 in Falenty near Warsaw. She was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw between 1950 and 1954. In 1965, she took the position of professor at the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Poznan (now the Academy of Fine Arts) and worked there until 1990.
Between 1954 and 1960, she painted monumental gouaches (a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water), and then in the 1960s, she created multidimensional sculptures made of soft materials on metal frames, which she dubbed the ?Abakans.?
In 1965, she was awarded the Grand Prix Biennale in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
During the 1970s, she turned to other materials like canvas and resin, and then to bronze, aluminum, cast iron and steel. This accompanied a change towards monumental scale in her pieces.
Abakanowicz exhibits in the museums of Europe, Australia, America and Japan. All events are adapted to the location and spatial ambiance of the exhibition area.
She initiated an artistic dilemma with her introduction of multi-figural presentations as an individual composition. Examples of this include the ?Backs,? 80 figures, Korea, 1980; ?Hurma,? 250 figures, U.S., 1991; and the ?Spaces for Contemplation,? permanent open-air sculptural group installations. This latter series comprises ?Catharsis,? 33 bronze figures, Italy, 1985; ?Space of Dragon,? 10 metaphoric bronze heads, South Korea, 1985; and ?Negev,? 7 stone rings, Jerusalem, Israel, 1987.
In 2004-06, Abakanowicz realized the largest figural composition of our times ? ?Agora.? Covering an area of almost 2000 square meters, the 106 3-meter-tall cast-iron figures are permanently installed in Chicago Grant Park.
For her creative activities, and critical and theoretical works, Abakanowicz has received seven honorary doctorates from universities in the UK, U.S., Poland and Germany and honorary recognition of Poland and France.
Abakanowicz was decorated with the Commander?s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta of Poland(1998), and France?s Officier des l? Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Officer?s Cross of the Order of Art and Literature ? 1999). Abakanowicz was the recipient of the Gottfried von Herder Award, a prestigious international prize, awarded by the president of Austria to scholars and artists who promote the sciences, art and literature. She is a member of the American and German Academies of Art and Literature. In 2005, Abakanowicz was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center in New York. The award was presented by the Polish minister of culture.
In the 20th Century Gallery of the National Museum in Krakow, as part of the 2nd Annual International Festival of Artistic Tapestry, Abakanowicz will exhibit a collection of her ?Abakans,? which are being loaned by the National Museum in Wroclaw for the occasion.
The works will be displayed in the Room of Intertexturality (objects or materials made by interweaving two or more things) as a part of the contemporary art project ?Living Gallery.?
The artist started creating her ?Abakans? in 1962, and only 3 years later, they had gained her worldwide acclaim. ?Abakans? are hard to classify. They sit upon the border between sculpture and artistic tapestry.
Thickly woven in wood and sisal, the ?Abakans? are singular and monumental projections of the artist?s own space, first translated into two dimensions, then into three. Color plays an integral part in the overall expression.
The National Museum will exhibit 10 black, one yellow and one orange. All create, as the artist says, a kind of cozy place, a space for contemplation.
This stage of Abakanowicz?s creative work is a revolution in artistic tapestry. Until her time, weaving was considered a lower branch of art, merely a craft for women. Abakanowicz validates tapestry as a highly serious art form.