Home » Exhibitions » Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle Of Thread And Rope at Tate Modern from 17 November 2022 to 21 May 2023

Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle Of Thread And Rope at Tate Modern from 17 November 2022 to 21 May 2023

Tate Modern offer a rare opportunity to explore an body of work by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz known as Abakans. Made of organic materials such as horsehair, sisal and hemp rope, these complex three-dimensional forms broke new ground for art in the 1960s and 70s. Bringing together 26 of these radical works for the first time in the UK, the exhibition will present a forest of sculptures, enabling visitors to explore their forms and earthy scents.

Magdalena Abakanowicz – Untitled 1965, Fondation Toms Pauli, Lausanne. Gift of Pierre and Marguerite Magnenat
All works by Magdalena Abakanowicz are © Fundacja Marty Magdaleny Abakanowicz Kosmowskiej i
Jana Kosmowskiego, Warsaw

With a career spanning over 50 years, Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930-2017) challenged what it meant to be a sculptor and led the way for other artists working with fibre. Having grown up among the rural landscapes outside Warsaw, Poland, she took inspiration from the myth, folklore and spirits of the forest. Although she grew up during the traumatic events of World War II and later lived under the restrictions of an Communist regime, Abakanowicz was determined to engage on a global scale. Gaining international recognition by 1970 for her revolutionary installations, she went on to cross the Iron Curtain more than any other artist, participating in hundreds of exhibitions worldwide.

Magdalena Abakanowicz – Abakan Red 1969, Tate
All works by Magdalena Abakanowicz are © Fundacja Marty Magdaleny Abakanowicz Kosmowskiej i
Jana Kosmowskiego, Warsaw.

Choosing to reject the restrictive definitions of art and craft inherited from previous generations, Abakanowicz created trailblazing fibre installations that were a radical departure from the traditional tapestries produced in Western Europe. Deriving their name from the artist’s own family name, Abakans astounded critics when they were first presented in the late 1960s. Some measuring over five metres tall and displayed far from the gallery wall, these free-hanging woven forms did not appear to be either sculpture or tapestry.

Magdalena Abakanowic- Abakan Yellow 1970, National Museum, Poznan
All works by Magdalena Abakanowicz are © Fundacja Marty Magdaleny Abakanowicz Kosmowskiej i
Jana Kosmowskiego, Warsaw.

Honouring the artist’s wish for her Abakans to be seen and experienced as living works, visitors to Tate Modern will weave throughout a fibrous sculptural landscape. For the first time, Tate Modern will chart the development of these ambitious works, exploring how Abakanowicz’s painted textiles from the mid-1950s transformed into the suspended, multi-faceted shapes of Abakan étroit 1967–8 and the monumental Abakan Red 1969, before eventually becoming full scale environments as seen in Set of Black Organic Forms 1974. Works such as Abakan Yellow 1970 and Abakan – Situation Variable II 1971 incorporate rope, spilling from the sculptures onto the floor. Rope became a key component of Abakanowicz’s organic environments, leading the viewer through gallery and city spaces in her works of the early 1970s.

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Modern website here

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