Since the 60’s Magdalena Abakanowicz created the monumental, three-dimensional and hand-woven forms named Abakans, who helped the artist achieve international fame. These works triggered a revolution concerning the view on sculptural art and were awarded the Grand Prix at the São Paulo Biennale in 1965. In the second half of the 70’s, the artist started molding heads, figures and animals from cast resin, sisal, burlap and adhesive, which then became her trademark. These were later followed by sculptures made out of bronze, stone, wood and steel. A popular example is the group Agora (2006): a permanent monument at Chicago’s Grant Park, comprising of 106 cast-iron figures.
Abakanowicz’s works have already been exhibited at renowned venues all over the world. The solo-exhibition at St. Elisabeth Church marks the artist’s Berlin debut, as there has never before been a show of this magnitude in the German capital. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a monumental installation titled Bambini, consisting of 83 life-sized sculptures, which was shown in venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1998), the Jardins du Palais Royal in Paris (1999), or the Reina Sofía in Madrid (2008). Bambini is a unique crowd of concrete-humans of whom none equals the other. “I have introduced the concept of the crowd into the sculpture”, says the artist. “They constitute a sign of lasting anxiety, a warning. I do not make editions. Every figure is individuality. There is also another aspect of quantity: the law of nature, which concerns us also. A crowd of people or birds, insects or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype. A riddle of nature’s abhorrence of exact repetition or inability to produce it. Just as the human hand cannot repeat its own gesture. I invoke this disturbing law, switching my own immobile herds into that rhythm.” Besides the group Bambini, there will be other sculptures from the series Backs, Bella I and Bella II, on display.
Abakanowicz is often put together with artists of Arte Povera, with Joseph Beuys and Eva Hesse. During the same period, they were working with the same poor, organic materials and were concerning themselves with the relation between the human and the mass, shedding light on the human condition. For the audience, its own disappearance in a mass of biomorphic shapes, headless figures, animals, or abstract forms becomes an experience of existential depth.