“Knots: Abakanowicz and the Polish Art Scene in the 1960s,” in Magdalena Abakanowicz, ed. by Ann Coxon and Mary Jane Jacob (London: Tate Modern, 2022).
Published in the exhibition catalogue of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s major monographic exhibition at TATE Modern, this essay provides an analysis of the artistic discourses and dominant conceptual frameworks that influenced Abakanowicz’s work in the 1960s, while also considering contemporaneous reception of her work.
The artist’s practice emerged from the cross- media experimentation taken up enthusiastically by many painters, sculptors, and weavers in communist Poland during the post-Stalinist Thaw. Her work matured among the tensions between the autonomy of form and the social context of display that characterized modernism’s twilight moment. Abakanowicz’s work captured and embodied these tensions to become almost a signifier of Poland’s high modernism.
The essay concentrates on the artist’s textiles and their development into Abakans beyond the impact of her weaving teachers and peers. The essay sees the work in the context of the two foundational traditions for nowoczesność, Poland’s postwar modernism: on the one hand, art informel, painting grounded in the French tradition of postwar abstraction, and on the other, neo-constructivism—claiming they form the double root of Abakanowicz’s artistic practice.