Marja-Leena Rathje
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art that excites 2


Ninety Five Figures from the Crowd of One Thousand Ninety Five Figures

Magdalena Abakanowicz: detail from the Ninety Five Figures from the Crowd of One Thousand Ninety Five Figures


Anna L. Conti of San Francisco writes a very focused and intelligent blog about her own art practice and about other artists. She is a prolific reader and gallery visitor and this comes out in her interesting posts. The other day she posted some a wonderful quote from one of my favourite artists along with a fabulous new-to-me website of her work: Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Abakanowicz' work has always excited me. As I've mentioned before, the first time I saw her work about 20 years ago in a book, her fibre sculptures of figures were burned into my mind as my heart beat with excitement. I was working on my series of wrapped figures at the time, so her work was a powerful connection and inspiration for me. I wish I could find images of those early works of hers. Amongst the work shown on this site, Space of Unknown Growth reminds me strongly of ancient standing stones which, as regular readers know, are of deep interest to me.

Do read the thought-provoking quote (from a book I must get), of which I've copied the last paragraph:

To have imagination and to be aware of it is to benefit from possessing an inner richness and a spontaneous and endless flood of images. It means to see the world in its entirety, since the point of the images is to show all that which escapes conceptualization.

Marja-Leena | 17/05/2006 | 15 comments
themes: Other artists


15 comments

Interesting quote. Thanks. I need to think about that one...

Hi Leslee, I hope you've read the entire quote. I find it meaningful because often I can't find words but images can speak for me. I guess that may be one difference between visual artists and writers.

Yes, yes, M.A. is one of my favourite inspirations too. Coincidentally I posted on my blog the other day an experimental piece that I did based on a blind drawing of one of her sculptures. I have the book The Figurative Sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Bodies, Environments, and Myths by Joanna Inglot which has wondrous photos of the early fibre work.

I love the quote you have chosen - especially because it explains why some conceptual art can be so bad (in my opinion) : i.e. it muddies, constrains, or completely echews the imaginative image.

I'm not so sure it's clear what the "point" of the images are. Seeing the world in its entirety seems preposterous. The skulls I liked, particulary the one spearing down in cone off the wall. Throngs of headless humanoids travelling the worlds artparks and galleries--I think I'm safe here in the Missouri woods! They are cool, yuckey but cool. There is something kind of greasy about bronze, mimicking the brighter textures of fabric sloppily.

Do you know William Tucker? He is more of an observing realist objectivist, but great bronze texture.

I am so down with your choice of a M.A. favorite, the concrete geomorphs that suggest housing. Great stuff. Here is some more housing by M.A. to provoke the speculative imagination. Very nice sculpture park, exquisitely varied. It also has one of the shiny.


You might have to be a stonehound like me to see the connection, but M.A.'s humanoids made me think of this work in stone. Once again, Otieza is bit of a hide-bound structural abstractionist, in an obvious contrast to M.A.'s provocations to fancy. Men! Somehow women seem more graceful at this dreamy business of suggestive transformation, Preminger, Smith, Bourgeois (what a great image google she is!)

Olga, as an artist working with fabrics, I knew you would be familiar with MA and yes, I saw your wonderful drawing! I must look for that book, thank you!

Bill, I took the liberty of putting all your excellent links into hyperlinks to make it easier to read.

I think MA's massed groups of humanity recall, for me, history's victims of genocide and human conflicts. She is from Poland, after all, right in the crossroads of Europe. I have a bit of a preference for her fibre sculptures, but she does capture some of the textures in bronze, like the example I show here. With the textural, as I opposed to smooth, I believe she has made the figures more human, rather than idealized smooth Greek statues.

William Tucker is new to me; the examples maybe don't do justice, but I find them to be rather blob-like, lumpy masses - another view of humanity.

Bill, the geomorphs that suggest housing are by Marina Abramovic, a very similar name that I too have mistaken for Magdalena Abakanowicz! This, and the shiny brick wall by Olafur Eliasson and Otieza's figures are all interesting comparisons.

Marja-Leena. Thank you for helping with my spelling. My goodness I do need help. I can feel my mind stretching! Apologies for the inappropriate substitution. Also, I actually just called images of the holocaust "yucky". Sheesh! What I called geo-forms suggestive of housing did regard Abakanowicz (if I had only tried to spell it earlier I wouldn't have had that brain-slur) on the site you gave with the title of "Space of Unknown Growth".
Her skull I particularly like looks very much like http://photos1.blogger.com/hello/297/8739/640/3.jpg "target="_blank">this actual fossil.
Interesting resonance with the fabric windings on her headless people. Awful to say, both are perhaps things dug up. Oh the blind eye I turn to the horrific.

I'd love to be so clever as to write hyperlinks but that knowledge is not given to me. Thanks for straightening my tie, but you can't save me from the embaressements of what I might write!

Bill, please don't berate yourself or apologize!! I did not mean to make you feel bad by correcting one spelling error (that's a hard name, even I had to look it up), and no one expects commenters particularly non-bloggers to put in hyperlinks because the code varies, and so what if you got the wrong artist! I just wanted to make it easier to read and link to in this longer comment, which I really appreciate you writing!!!

You know, Bill, this is like having a conversation where we may say things spontaneously, that we can retract in the course of back and forth dialogue. It's tougher in print though, isn't it, because of the delay in response. Please keep on doing what you do, it provides for thoughful discussion. I wish more readers would join in!

Back to the fossil - great connection, and yes - shrouds! I didn't quite put my finger on that! Abakanowicz has a great deal of courage and strength to do work like this, work that seems "masculine" in its power, yet contains the depth of female emotion like Kathe Kollwitz.

Marina may look similar, but does not sound similar to Magdalena; Abramovic sounds nothing like Abakanowicz. I have never said their names alound and have always had them slurred together. There is probably a third artist I have mixed in this puddle and I won't venture to spell her name, a spectre from Artforum. (Cemins?)

Is it possible for me to write hyperlinks in my comment text?

I mix them up too, don't know why!The third artist - is it Vija Celmins? Maybe because the names are foreign to us that they become mixed up?

If you want to write hyperlinks, I'll email the code to you. I tried putting it here, but of course it just appears as a hyperlink! Bill, you gotta start blogging :-)

Yes I do mean Vija Celmins. Good for you. What don't you know?

When I was thinking of rock homes, I was actually thinking of Goreme, in Cappodacia, Turkey(wish I had high-speed Internet, cause that site looks interesting). Googling "rock house" I found this, which was to good to pass up. Wow! But I could not find that hollow boulder again.

Bill, you got the links active - hooray! I like that "rock house". Is the hollow boulder this link you sent earlier that you called a stone house ?

Why yes it must be. I'm glad you don't seem to think me simple for just enjoying wandering in the Google Image-sphere. It affords such virtual freedom of movement, swinging and winging though space.

Thank you so much for tutoring me in writing hyperlinks on your comments. I think much of my urge to do so came from a sense of disadvantage from being a blogless commentor. Often when I have a conversation in comment boxes, the blogger makes a reference with a hyperlink, then I reply with my own reference in the form of a long URL, which is always clumsy, breaking the flow of my words. I then feel like a one-eyed cripple! Thanks, Marja-Leena for you practice of equal rights for commentors. I will try to use my powers only to do good! I have not solved the problem of inequality at other blogs yet, but what a satisfying beginning here at your site.

I suppose my satisfaction at quoting the photographry of others signifies me as a kind of secondhand person, an easy collage of purloined insights, travels, and achievements. But not? I revel in the achievements of others. Also I don't doubt the validity of the richness of my emotional experience and, yes even a sense of belovedness, toward works and places which I view electronically. On the deepest level, I may appreciate on-line earth and art for the company it affords. Somehow, sharing with others such as yourself multiplies my satisfaction triply.

EDITED: Look at Ruud van Emple

Bill, it's my pleasure. I get a lot of satisfaction from your enthusiasm and interest in blogs and in art. Why else do we have comments if we don't enjoy the conversation? Because blogs use different codes, I can't always put in hyperlinks either so don't let it bother you. (You could ask the blogger to convert your URLs to hyperlinks for you if you like.)

That's another great link to a very intriguing artist (though we should change the hyperlink name to his not yours, don't you think?)

Marja-Leena,
Why certainly change it please! Sorry to need editing. Sampling is an interesting area, I am certainy heedlessly liberal towards it when suiting my own whims, not to mention that I am sampling on a website that is not my own! Sure is fun though. I can't think of more amusing image than that by which to represent myself, and using a hyperlink performs so succintly. Thanks for your patience, Marja-Leena and promting me toward better etiquite. I fear such promting will always be helpful to me.