Annotated Bibliography: Magdalena Abakanowicz

Art And Design
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Artists have contributed to the transformation of the world since time immemorial. Regardless of the type of artwork, artists have become central players in the quest to change the world for the better. One such artist is Magdalena Abakanowicz, a Polish fiber artist and sculptor. Abakanowicz is widely renowned for her artistic use of textiles as the primary medium of sculpture. She has several works of art to her name, for instance, the Abakans, Humanoid sculptures, and Agora among others. Her prolific works saw her get recognition, through awards, from a wide spectrum of quarters, and her works studied by several researchers. The following literature review is premised on the prominence of Abakanowicz recognized through books and research works that sought to unveil the secrets or generally summarize, analyze, evaluate, and assess Magdalena Abakanowicz and her works.

Barrett, Terry. "Criticizing art." Mountain View, CA: Mayfield (1994) notes that Magdalena Abakanowicz’s major sculptural medium was fiber. The author quotes Wendy Beckett who reminisces that Magdalena’s choice of fibers stemmed from when she saw her mother’s mutilated body after being shot at by the Nazis in Poland. Henceforth, as an artist later in life, she preferred fiber terming it the most yielding and fragile, and the humblest of materials on which to work. Literally, she focused on the softness of fiber and how easily it could be manipulated. However, the figurative representation bases on her mother’s mutilated body. Barrett, however, recognizes the intricacy with which Magdalena Abakanowicz harmonized weight and height to produce gigantic sculptures with a message concealed deep within. The use of fiber gave these sculptures a unique featuring uniquely frail and seemingly airily suspended ornaments. In assessment, this source is of particular use to this general discussion. It is extremely focused and objective. In particular, the source focuses on only one aspect of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s works- medium, unlike other sources in the bibliography. Its goal, presumably, is to examine the use of fiber as a medium of sculpturing. The various premises in the source are specifically credible and unbiased given that apart from directly quoting from other people like Wendy Beckett, the author amalgamates her thoughts in the quotes to create holistic and informed standpoints. The source, therefore, is entirely helpful and beneficial to this research. In particular, it has helped me view the use of fiber by Abakanowicz differently given the sad story behind her love for fiber.

Yet Inglot, Joanna. The figurative sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz: bodies, environments, and myths. Univ of California Press, 2004 uniquely overviews Magdalena Abakanowicz’s sculptures. The book rightly recognizes the deserved prominence of Abakanowicz’s works and role in the late-twentieth-century through her sculptures. Abakanowicz’s cycles of hollow, crude burlap, and headless crowds of sculptures in the 1970s and 1980s still occupy major spaces in the museums across the world from Europe, Asia to America. Their round form and conspicuous expressiveness is greatly praised both by experts and professional artists. In this book, an historical analysis of the phenomenal figures ensue. However, Joanna Inglot extensively delves deeply into the myth of isolation that is presupposed to obscure the cultural and sociopolitical background of the internationally celebrated Magdalena Abakanowicz.  The book covers the artist’s human body representation through fibers works like the Abakans and War Games, including outdoor surroundings of the 1990s. Like the previous source, this book is useful to this research as, among the others, it is the only one that provides a critical and cross-generational dissection of Magdalena’s works as well as historically contextualizing their motivation. Another importance of the book stems from the fact that the author has objectively strived to demonstrate the manner in which the works engage an international audience and how the unique sculptures reflect the experiences of the generations therein concerning communism and war.  A list of references are provided to support a claim on the bias and objectivity of the book. Given its wide coverage, it reinforces some of the claims made in the other sources, for instance, concerning the sculpturing medium of Abakanowicz as presented in the previous source. The goal of this book is to locate Abakanowicz as one of the modern sculptors whose works of art embody stylistic innovations and unique representations of the sociopolitical and cultural issues.

Milofsky, Leslie. "Magdalena Abakanowicz." Feminist Studies 13, no. 2 (1987): 363-78 does not explore any specific subject on this topic, but merely recounts the history and existence of Magdalena Abakanowicz including her works. Milofsky notes that the artist’s name was a derivative of ‘Abaka-Khan’, a nineteenth century Mongolian ancestor extensively ruled the southern parts of Siberia. Following a troubled childhood featuring isolation and political chaos in Poland, Magdalena Abakanowicz has thrived and invincibly conquered her terrain. The source, however, introduces a unique point about the relationship between Magdalena Abakanowicz and the Polish government, but with a note the relationship is rarely covered in her interviews. It remains mysterious how the Polish government has managed to support her works despite the amount of dissent she directs to the country’s administration through her works. In the interviews, Magdalena Abakanowicz has always denied the claim that her works criticizes or references to any political event, ideology or the government’s policy. This source is useful to this analysis as it introduces a totally different view of the artist. While the information is entirely reliable, the premises of this source especially concerning the denial by the artist that her works do not allude to any political events, contradict the two previous sources which linked the sculptures to war and communism among other events. This necessitates further examination of this source with a view to revealing the truth. Correspondingly, the source has changed my thinking about the topic. A question that remains unanswered is the message behind these sculptures if they were not meant to address certain sociopolitical events as stated by the other sources previously assessed. Nonetheless, the source remains helpful to this research as it introduces an alternative hypothesis which requires further examination and demystification through juxtaposition with the other sources.

Given the previous interview claims, Makin, Jeff. "Magdalena Abakanowicz: An interview with Jeff Makin." Quadrant 20, no. 6 (1976): 50 presents one of the interviews with a view to ascertaining the claims from the horse’s own mouth. The interview reveals that Magdalena Abakanowicz was born to a noble family in Warsaw, Poland in the year 1930. She endured years of war from Russia to Poland, which made her childhood entirely deplorable despite the nobility of her family. From early life, education to professional art, the source presents the life of Magdalena Abakanowicz. Its particular usefulness comes from the fact that most of the claims are from Magdalena Abakanowicz, therefore, reliable and helpful in debunking some of the myths advanced by the other sources. While this source does not record any places where the artist refutes the link between her artwork and sociopolitical issues, it is strongly grounded on objectivity and credible references. As such, it will mainly function to reinforce standpoints in this research. It has not necessarily changed my thinking given that the source mainly reports elements that had previously been discussed in the other sources.

Conclusively, all the four sources summarized, assessed and reflected on, in this research are relevant and helpful to the overall research. Drawing on various aspects of the subject and scope of research, the sources undoubtedly inform and shape the research. As such, increasing its accuracy and reliability. Despite their contradictions, they acknowledge the prominence of Magdalena Abakanowicz and the pertinence of her works.

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