Magdalena Abakanowicz bigraphy, stories - Sculptor

Magdalena Abakanowicz : biography

June 20, 1930 -

Magdalena Abakanowicz (born June 20, 1930, in Falenty, Poland) is a Polish sculptor and fiber artist. She is notable for her use of textiles as a sculptural medium. She was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland from 1965 to 1990 and a visiting professor at University of California, Los Angeles in 1984. Abakanowicz currently lives and works in Warsaw.

Early life

Magdalena Abakanowicz was born to a noble landowner family. Her mother descended from old Polish nobility. Her father came from a Polonized Tatar family, which traced its origins to Abaqa Khan, the 13th century Mongol chieftain. He fled Russia to newly independent Poland after the October Revolution.Inglot, p. 12 The Russian invasion of 1920 forced her family to flee their home, after which they moved to the city of Gdańsk. When she was nine Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Poland. Her family endured the war years living on the outskirts of Warsaw.

After the war and resulting Soviet occupation, the family moved to small city of Tczew near Gdańsk, in northern Poland, where they hoped to start a new life. Under Soviet control, the Polish government officially adopted Socialist realism as the only acceptable art form which should be pursued by artists. Originally conceived by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s, Socialist realism, in nature, had to be 'national in form' and 'socialist in content'.Inglot, p. 31 Other art forms being practiced at the time in the West, such as Modernism, were culturally outlawed and heavily censored in all Eastern bloc nations, including Poland.

Abakanowicz completed part of her high school education in Tczew from 1945 to 1947, after which she went to Gdynia for two additional years of art school at the Liceum Sztuk Plastycznych w Gdyni. After her graduation from the Liceum in 1949, Abakanowicz attended the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts, then located in the town of Sopot. In 1950, Abakanowicz moved back to Warsaw to begin her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, the leading art school in Poland.

Her years at the university, 1950–1954, coincided with some of the harshest assault made on art by the Soviet leadership. By utilizing the doctrine of 'Socialist realism', all art forms in Soviet occupied nations were forced to adhere to strict guidelines and limitations that subordinated the arts to the needs and demands of the State. Realist artistic depictions based on the national 19th-century academic tradition was the only the form of artistic expression advocated by in Poland at the time.Inglot, p. 32 The Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, being the most important artistic institution in Poland, came under special scrutiny from the Ministry of Art and Culture, which administered all major decisions in the field at the time.Inglot, p. 27

Abakanowicz found the climate at the Academy to be highly “rigid” and overly “conservative”. She recalled:

While studying at the University she was required to take several textile design classes, learning the art of weaving, screen printing, and fiber design from instructors such as Anna Sledziewska, Eleonora Plutymska, and Maria Urbanowicz. These instructors and skills would greatly influence Abakanowicz's work, as well as other prominent Polish artists at the time.Inglot, p. 28

Doctorates and honors

  • Honoris Causa doctorate from the Royal College of Art, London, England (1974)
  • Honoris Causa doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (1992)
  • Honorary member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin (1994)
  • Honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City (1996)
  • Honorary member of the Sachsische Akademie der Kunste, Dresden, Germany (1998)
  • Honoris Causa doctorate from the Academy of Fine Arts, Łódź, Poland (1998)
  • Orden Pour le Mérite fur Wissenschaften und Künste, Berlin, Germany (2000)
  • Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree, Pratt Institute, New York (2000)
  • Honoris Causa doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Massachusetts (2001)
  • Honoris Causa doctorate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland (2002)
  • Honoris Causa doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (2002)
Living octopus

Living octopus

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