Polish, born 1930
Puellae (Girls), 1992
Gift of The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation 1998.148.1
Over the last thirty years, Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has created a compelling and highly emotional body of work, largely drawn from her personal experience of World War II and its aftermath. She is best known for her "crowds" (as she calls them) of headless, rigidly posed figures whose anonymity and repetitious presentation have been regarded as the artist's personal response to totalitarianism.
Trained as a textile artist, Abakanowicz first used burlap in her indoor sculpture to achieve modulated, deeply incised surfaces for powerfully expressive ends. Each of the thirty bronzes in Puellae is a unique cast, made from a burlap mold that the artist individually worked during the casting process. Each puella's diminutive size is unusual, since Abakanowicz has traditionally depicted adults as life-size or larger. The work refers to an account the artist heard as a child in Poland during World War II about a group of children who froze to death as they were transported in cattle cars from Poland to Germany, as part of the "Arianization" process. Depending on the site, these figures can be arranged in any configuration. (4 of 17)