Magdalena Abakanowicz was a Polish artist who was born on June 20th, 1930. She was one of Poland’s most iconic sphere sculpture creators and specialized using three-dimensional textiles beginning in the 1970s. Although she has passed away on April 20th of 2017, she was very successful and could leave behind numerous, magnificent artworks such as 80 Backs, which depicts faceless mass with the loneliness and deterioration of the human body. Being created in 1976, it has fascinated many, such as the people of the Museum of Modern Art in South Korea, where it is currently being displayed. Every artist uses the elements and principles of art in order to build the blocks of composition of their artistic work, such as lines. Lines are the most essential element that can be used in an artwork; thus, they are tools for describing the boundaries and edges of three-dimensional surfaces, in this case; the Backs.
As the viewer looks closer, the engraved lines on all of the bodies become more visible, defining the outline and texture of all of the forms. Unlike shapes, forms have mass, volume, and occupy three-dimensional spaces, just like the Backs. Besides being solid, they can also define its surface, which seems to be rough and uneven. Since the artist was fascinated with the human body, she attempted to make her works metaphorically rather than literally. The eighty trunks are all organic forms facing forward and there is a reason for that. According to Abakanowicz; “the face can lie and the back cannot”. This is an example of how declined Magdalena was towards translating body language. What is really captivating is the integration of the sculptures in lines all across what it seems to be dry land.
There are other elements artists use to create visual impact such as unity, variety, and balance, which are all portrayed in 80 Backs. The bodies seem to be similar, whole, and organized, giving the artwork unity. Unity is used to connect different visual elements to create a composition, which is the general design or organization of a work. Because of the artwork’s cohesiveness, Abakanowicz was able to communicate the visual idea it symbolizes; humility, patience, and loneliness… Furthermore, the repetition represents the unity of the work, but the uniqueness and diversity is what gives it variety. The figures reflect the artist’s own experience of the communist regime, which is collective over the individual. To add on, variety is used to intensify the impact of a work with values, textures, and colors. The backs seem to be very solid and heavy and the texture arouses one’s curiosity too feel and touch the uncanny figures. The series of the bodies, which consists of eighty vaguely different sculptures of the human trunk, signify nature as a whole and is all centered around the artists’ ambiguity and inexactness. Not only is the artwork centered on humanity but also Abakanowicz herself, who lived in a regime filled with creativity and imagination. She completely redefined how other modern artists represented the human body while exploring the stress of political regimes.
After all, Magdalena was one of the most powerful sculptors of the Post War period, with such a unique handling of the human figure, she was able to attract attention and later grow her reputation as an artist. Most of her works were large and in the outdoors, which let viewers see her skills and inventiveness through the diversity of her projects. Her career consisted of searching in what she believed was a universal truth, which she accomplished throughout the years.
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