Thirty Backwards Standing Figures

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Falenty, Poland, 1930 - Warsaw, Poland, 2017
  • Date: 
  • Material: 
    Hessian and resin
  • Technique: 
  • Descriptive technique: 
    A sculpture installation made up of thirty anthropomorphic figures
  • Dimensions: 
    Each figure: 165 x 63 x 33 cm
  • Category: 
    Sculpture, Installation
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 
  • Donation of the author, 1996
  • Image credit: 
    © Magdalena Abakanowicz, 2014

After having been awarded the Grand Prize at the São Paulo Biennial in 1965 for her colossal Abakans, works of dyed woven material hung from the ceiling, Magdalena Abakanowicz embraced European sculpture as represented by artists such as Marino Marini, Alberto Giacometti or Fritz Wotruba, centred on the expressiveness of the simplified human figure, in order to incorporate this into her own art and into her personal experience of the social and cultural atmosphere in Poland since the end of the Second World War.
This is the idea reflected in Thirty Backwards Standing Figures (1993-1994), a work that highlights the expressive and metaphorical capacity pursued by the artist through sculpture by filling the space with a uniform group of static sackcloth figures, both rigid and repetitive. Abakanowiz continues to use woven material, but imbues it with stiffness by combining it with resin, thus achieving plasticity and stability in the figure without sacrificing the desired hand-made quality and warmth of the cloth.
The thirty-figure composition seeks to express the uncertainty and horror felt by Abakanowicz in the presence of crowds. Crowds in streets and airports are represented as irrational entities which, due to their great numbers, intimidate the individual. The thirty figures that make up this piece are headless, hollow and can only be seen from behind, as if the spectator were forced either to follow them or to watch them walk away from the loneliness and isolation of oneself.

Carmen Fernández Aparicio