The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design invites to the international academic conference “Magdalena Abakanowicz. Art and Life”

  • 2019-04-05
  • TBT Staff

RIGA - Introducing the exhibition Into the Space of Magdalena Abakanowicz. Textile and Sculpture, wich will be on view in the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga, on Tuesday, 9 April 2019, from 11.00 to 14.30 an international academic conference Magdalena
Abakanowicz. Art and Life with the participation of Polish and Latvian art specialists will take place at the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE (Doma laukums 6).

Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930–2017) is one of the most famous Polish contemporary artists in the world. The outstanding master was equally active in the fields of textile or fiber art, sculpture, painting, and drawing. During the early 1960s, she carried out the most challenging revolution in textile art, deliberately liberating it from the functional meaning characteristic then to decorative
applied art. Abakans – spatial compositions created by the artist – ultimately changed the principles and nature of textiles, as well the range of materials that can be used for such purpose.

These innovations had an enormous impact on the further development of fiber art around the world. Magdalena Abakanowicz also contributed significantly to sculpture. She was one of the first artists who embarked on creation of abstract human images made from soft, resin-impregnated materials, at the same time drawing special attention to relationship between art and environment.

From 11 April to 30 June, an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga (MDAD; Skārņu iela 10) will represent 15 objects by Magdalena Abakanowicz – large-scale spatial textiles and sculptures made of burlap and resin – from several museums in Poland and the artist’s studio, giving an excellent overview of her creative work, style and innovatory approach.
The artist recently departed for eternity and this exhibition is dedicated to the research and promotion of the her oeuvre. In turn, a scientific conference with the participation of Polish and Latvian art theoreticians will focus on particular aspects of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s textile and sculpture art as well as her impact on the development of textile art in Latvia and abroad.

The conference is organized by the Latvian National Museum of Art / Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga, Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko and Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw.

Working languages of the conference: English and Latvian, without translation.

All interested persons are invited to join the meeting!

Free entry.
Prior registration is not required.


10.30–11.00 Registration of participants
11.00–11.10 Opening of the conference
11.10–11.30 Into the Space of Magdalena Abakanowicz

Eulalia Domanowska, curator, Director of the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko / Poland Magdalena Abakanowicz’s art used to be associated with textiles. Indeed, she started to be famous thanks to them, since 1962 taking part in the International Tapestry Biennial in Lausanne and winning the gold medal at the Biennale in São Paulo in 1965. Experiments with various fibres, sisal, ropes, feathers, leather, structure, colour, and space led to producing abakans – soft creations situated between textiles and sculpture.

However, throughout her over sixty-year-long work, Magdalena Abakanowicz dealt with various domains of art, transcending their boundaries and combining various media. It was happening on the way of experiments and pursuits. Besides textiles and abakans
she made drawings, sculptures, spatial installations, environment works, architectural projects, sculptures in public spaces which can be found in various collections all over Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia, as well as she wrote texts about art. The talk will
refer to the artist’s projects in public spaces.

Eulalia Domanowska is a Director of the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko. Academic Teacher / Professor of Art History at Graphic Department of Warsaw School of Information Technology, Master of Art History in the Faculty of Art History, Warsaw
University, courses of Museology, Etnology, Swedish Art, Art and Gender, The Teacher Education, Computer and Teaching, English A, Umeå University, Sweden. Works also as a curator and art critic. Special interest: art in public space and land art. Curator of about 70 exhibitions in Poland and in European countries, among others at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, Salon Akademii Gallery in Warsaw, series of exhibitions in Bergen (Norway), St. Petersburg (Pushkinskaya Gallery,
Russia), Röda Sten in Göteborg (Sweden), M. Ciurlionis Museum in Kaunas (Lithuania), RLBQ Gallery and Art Academy in Marseille (France), the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko (Poland), Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Latvia). Recently curated Tony Cragg and Henry Moore exhibitions in the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko and exhibition of Polish contemporary monumental sculptures 5 Ton of Sculpture in Millenaris Park in Budapest.

11.30–11.50 Legend of Magdalena Abakanowicz.

In Latvia, Poland and Europe (Lausanne biennials) Inese Baranovska, art historian, curator, Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / Latvian National Museum of Art / Latvia

In Latvia, we have been aware about the artist Magdalena Abakanowicz since the winter of 1969 when the legendary Polish textile art exhibition was opened at the State Museum of Foreign Art (now: Art Museum RIGA BOURSE). In 1961, Department of Textile Art was founded at the Art Academy of Latvia but it was until several years later in 1969 that the First Latvian Textile Art exhibition was organized on the same premises. The achievements of Polish artists in the field of textile art undoubtedly were inspirational to
our teachers and students. Many admired Magdalena Abakanowicz, who dared to liberate textile art from the traditional sticking to the wall and gave it the power to step into the third dimension.

In the 1970s, textile art in Latvia also manifested itself by its search of new means of expression, materials and form, increasingly moving away from the officially dictated dogmas of Socialist Realism. However, none of the Latvian authors have developed their
creative potential as radically as Magdalena Abakanowicz, breaking the boundaries between textile art and sculpture, and building a universe of her own artistic language. Inese Baranovska is art historian, exhibition curator. Published books and articles on art.
Participated and lectured in conferences in Europe, Russia and the USA. In 2008, was awarded Chevalier of Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic. Since 2010, lectures on Art in Public Space in the 20th and 21st Century at the Art Academy of Latvia.

Since 2011, Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga. In 2018, the curator and project manager of the designer Arthur Analts’ Matter to Matter exhibition at the London Design Biennial (Medal for the Best Design).

11.50–12.10 Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Metamorphism

Marta Kowalewska, art historian, critic, curator, Chief Curator of the Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź / Poland

There is a certain paradox connected with Magdalena Abakanowicz’s work. She is an artist renowned all over the world, her sculptures are highly valued but it is abakans that enjoy particular recognition. These remarkable forms constitute the crowning feature of the crucial, initial period of her work which lasted for two decades and abounded in a number of extraordinary achievements, revolutionary for art.

This time of creative pursuits brought about not only wonderful works of art but also resolutions that vitally influenced the changes in the world art in the second half of the 20th century. The paradox relies in the fact that this most revolutionary period is the least
researched. Abakans were a result of deliberations and activities connected with the medium of textiles which Magdalena Abakanowicz was exploring in the first years of her work. She revolutionized the language of this discipline and thanks to her activity textiles won recognition as an autonomous area of art, which consequently attracted a plethora of artists. To understand the audacity and revolutionary character of Abakanowicz’s artistic visions it is worth studying a whole sequence of circumstances – both personal and historical ones – in which they were created. Abakanowicz’s visions were a consequence of her life experiences and they crystallized thanks to the ideas she encountered during her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. It is at this academy that a group of professors established grounds on which she could develop her ideas and artistic experiments. This
conference talk will focus on analyzing both the ideological foundations which Magdalena Abakanowicz gained during studies, and a whole set of achievements and experiments which during only a few years so significantly changed the image and understanding of
artistic textiles in the world.

Abakanowicz was followed by whole masses of artists she had emboldened. Thanks to her audacious activities they noticed in textiles an innovative and wide field for artistic expression.

Marta Kowalewska is art historian, critic, curator, Chief Curator of the Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź (CMTŁ). Curator of the exhibitions, among others: Metamorphism, Rebellion of the Matter, Christian Dior and the Icons of Parisian Fashion from the
Collection of Adam Leja (CMTŁ). Author of numerous publications: over 70 articles, critical texts and interviews (including Wojciech Fangor, Roman Opałka) on the pages of the professional press and in exhibition catalogues. Co-author of the book From Tapestry
to Fiber Art. The Lausanne Biennials 1962–1995 (Fondation Toms Pauli, Skira Editions, 2017). Member of the jury of international exhibitions of the textile art, among others: 3rd International Art Festival Structures of Connections. Artistic Tapestry Transformations (Kraków, 2009) and 8th Biennial of Contemporary Textile Art The Sustainable City (Madrid, 2019).

12.10–12.30 I am not a Weaver

Anda Rottenberg, art historian and critic, exhibition curator / Poland

Magdalena Abakanowicz won international renown thanks to abakans – woven from coloured sisal, huge forms bringing to mind a woman’s vulva. Created in diverse variants, they were a direct ‘show’ of the artist’s sexual identity and at the same time a manifest of femininity, and were considered thoroughly feminist works, breaking away with the prudishness of euphemisms, used by the language of art in those days.

Yet, with time the ‘weaving’ material and ‘feminine’ technique used in the production of abakans started to increasingly annoy her. Magdalena Abakanowicz turned towards figurative sculpture and the figures she made were devoid of distinctive signs of gender.
In this way master ‘got outside’ her identity as a woman and freed herself from her speciality – as a weaver, which she did not want to be identified with.

At some point Abakanowicz returned to almost abstract, soft, biological forms, creating a series of ‘cocoons’ titled Embryology. She did not comment either on abakans or the ‘cocoons’ in connection with her personal tragedy; she guarded her image as an artist beyond her own, individual experience.

Deeper analyses of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s oeuvre became only possible after her death. This lecture is an attempt to recreate the links between the artist’s personal biography and selected examples from her rich legacy. Anda Rottenberg is exhibition curator, art historian and critic, academic teacher of curatorial studies. As of 1980 curator and co-curator of many international exhibitions.
Curator (1993–1995) and commissioner of the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1993–2001) and the São Paulo Biennale (1997–2007). Author of the numerous texts on art translated into most European as well as Japanese and Korean languages. Recently published books: Art in Poland 1945–2005 (2005), Draught – Texts on Polish Art of the 80s (2009), biographical book Here You Are (2009), Never Mind. Talks With Anda Rottenberg (interview by Dorota Jarecka, 2014), Laszlo Feher (Budapeszt, 2016),
Stanisław Fijałkowski (Berlin, 2016), Miroslaw Balka (Hangar Bicocca, Milano, 2017), Berlin Depression (2018). Acting also as a freelance art writer and curator.

12.30–13.00 Coffee Break
13.00–13.20 Organic Forms of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Works

Milada Ślizińska, art historian, critic, curator / Poland

This paper is an attempt to show what Magdalena Abakanowicz herself said about the organicity of her works. It will mention the commentaries provided by the artist during academic congresses, stated in her Monologue in the book Fate and Art and left in her
notes published in the book Magdalena Abakanowicz. Cistern. Fiber as a basic element of the structure of organic world of our planet, Rope, like a muscle, frozen organism. Objects woven with fibres, such as the tree, human hand, bird wing. Backs – human beeings, or human condition in general, Embryology, Crowds – mosquitoes or people. Catharsis – man-trees, man-coffins. Negev – the surface of the rock engraved by the ancient sea. Trees – cut down along the roads. War Games – huge bodies, muscular, wounded, with amputated limbs. “Whom will they become if I arm their organs with steel?”

Arboreal Architecture for La Defense district in Paris. “…along the axis, on its both sides I propose to raise ca. 60 arboreal buildings. Each one is about 80-metres tall, with a diameter of 30 to 50 meters. These buildings, on average 25 floors each, are non-
geometrical… The groups of such buildings covered with greenery will produce a micro-climate of pure, highly oxygenated air.”
“At the beginning of a creative process, whether in science or in art, lies what is inexplicable, a mystery. And certain matters need to be left as a mystery, also in art.”

Milada Ślizińska is art historian, critic, curator. Chief Curator of International Exhibitions, Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (1990–2011). Curator of exhibitions, among others: Cindy Sherman, Gerhard Richter, Kara Walker, Joseph
Kossuth, Ilya Kabakov, Magdalena Abakanowicz, James Turrell, Nan Goldin, Marina Abramovic, Pipilotti Rist, Christian Boltanski, Isaac Julien, etc. Since 2011 lecturer at the Faculty of New Media, Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, and the Faculty of Sound
Directory, Music University in Warsaw. She was lecturing on contemporary art at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Pratt Institute, New York, New School for Social Research, New York, Columbia University, New York, Royal College of Art,
London, Bard College, Annansdale-on-Hudson.

13.20–13.50 Mythological Memory. Magdalena Abakanowicz and Her Contemporaries

Irēna Bužinska, art historian, curator, Exhibition Curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Latvian National Museum of Art / Latvia

The art of Magdalena Abakanowicz opens up an opportunity to analyse the master’s long-lasting creative work in various aspects: highlighting her reformative contribution to both modern textile art development and the contemporary expansion of the concept of

The early stages of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s creative work show her childhood impressions and the influence of Polish cultural traditions; especially we can see it in textiles. However, like many of her fellow textile artists, she went on numerous creatively
stimulating and essential to her art journeys to different parts of the world. She learned there about the local traditions, perceptions of reality, rituals, habits, human and environmental relationship, materials to create works of art. The paper will provide information on several Magdalena Abakanowicz’s tours, as well as outline the future perspectives in the research of the artist’s creative legacy, especially in the terms of “primitive” culture impact.

Irēna Bužinska is art historian, Exhibition Curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga. Published about 400 articles on Latvian art history and contemporary art. Curator of more than 100 exhibitions in Latvia and abroad. Her academic interests focus on the 20th century design history in Latvia, the history of Russian Avant-garde and 20th century early Modernism. In 2015, Ashgate Publishing (USA) released Irēna Bužinska’s book Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism: A Charter for the Avant-Garde, co- authored with Z. S. Strother and Jeremy Howard.

13.50–14.10 Textile Art as Part of Public Interior Design in Riga and Latvia – Phenomenon of the 1970s Rūta Rinka, art historian, Curator of the Latvian Textile Art and Leather Art Collection, Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Latvian National Museum of Art / Latvia

In the 1970s, the field of architecture in the Latvian SSR meets with intensification and implementation of public interior design projects, often pursued in collaboration of architects and interior designers, and numerous specialists of applied art. Special
attention was paid to the application of textiles in the organization of space. The young professionals of the Textile Art, Interior and Equipment Department, established in 1961 at the Art Academy of Latvia, were actively involved in the creation of aesthetically remarkable architectural environment. Moreover, in the late 1960s artistic search for innovation in textile art also intensified. Artists experimented with textile material, techniques and spatiality. They increasingly embraced the problems of tapestry and space synthesis, wished to make free standing textile compositions, to focus on the creation of relief textile objects. In turn, watching the development of textile art, architects and interior designers also appreciated the new forms of interaction between textile and interior.

The report will provide an insight into the public interior design projects implemented in Riga and Latvia, which comprised works created by Latvian textile artists. These examples can be considered a specific phenomenon of decorative art of the 1970s.
Rūta Rinka is art historian, Curator of the Latvian Textile Art and Leather Art Collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga. Graduated from the Art Academy of Latvia. Rūta Rinka’s scientific interests include Latvian art of the interwar period and trends of textile art development in the 20th century. Author of Ceramic Master Studio of the Art Academy of Latvia 1924–1944 (2004) and a book about the artist Ansis Cīrulis (2008). Curator of the exhibition The Seventies. Utility of Beauty (2016). Currently
preparing an exhibition dedicated to the work of artist Jūlijs Madernieks (2020).

14.10–14.30 Brief debate, conclusion of the conference