Magdalena Abakanowicz (b. 1930, Poland; d. 2017, Poland) 

Untitled, 1977
Jute and resin on board


Fabric, figure, and landscape merge in this work by Magdalena Abakanowicz. Initially recognized for her innovative abstract works in fiber and textiles, which she produced at a massive scale during the 1960s, figurative references enter her practice in the 1970s. From 1976-80 she produced Backs, which consists of eighty individual sculptures of the human torso. The 1977 untitled work in this section of the exhibition was produced during this same period and presents the imprint of a headless human back, made from coarse jute sackcloth and molded into place using synthetic resins. The inherent roughness of the natural fiber creates the uncomfortably uneven surface in this piece, with wrinkles and bunches evident throughout. On the foregrounded body, these textures look like the wrinkles of aged skin or scars, while the background areas recall mountains, ravines, or the bark of a tree, adding references to organic matter. The artist has described how “we are all fibrous structures,” and her use of this material here poetically creates connections between the human body and the earth, addressing the wear and suffering both have undergone throughout history.