4 Seated Figures 2002

Magdalena Abakanowicz, 4 Seated Figures, 2002; Gift of the Artist

Magdalena Abakanowicz’s 4 Seated Figures blends her personal memories with her broader vision of a modern world shaped by war and political upheaval. Both headless and handless, these figures reflect the artist’s direct experience—she witnessed her mother being shot in the hands as soldiers stormed their home in Poland during World War II. Abakanowicz notes, however, that the figures are genderless and do not suggest any particular race: “They are naked, exposed, and vulnerable, just as we all are.”

Abakanowicz was a leader in the international fiber-art movement that began in the 1960s. She became renowned for her innovative, off-loom sculptural techniques using rope, burlap, string, or cotton gauze. Abakanowicz created 4 Seated Figures from plaster molds of human models she had made in the late 1970s. Pressing burlap soaked with resin and glue into the molds, she shaped each figure individually. With a texture resembling tree bark, they appear to have been stripped of skin, revealing muscles, arteries, or cords suggestive of the nervous system.