Two Figures on Beam

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Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, b. 1930)
Two Figures on Beam, 1992

Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has witnessed years of war and political, social, and economic upheavals in her native country. Her sculptures reflect the loss, suffering, and repression embedded in this history. She is best known for her headless, half-hollow human figures, cast in burlap or bronze. The fragmentary form of the figures, which lack any designation of race or culture, allows them to become generalized metaphors for the human condition. The subjects of Two Figures on a Beam appear to have been cast from the same body. Subtle variations in anatomy and surface treatment, however, suggest that their individuality has not been entirely removed. Their rigid frontal position suggests soldiers at attention or prisoners before a firing squad, while their placement on the beam calls to mind slaves on the auction block or war captives on display.

Publication History
Andera, Margaret, Nonie Gadsden, Britt Salvesen, and Laurie Winters. Collection Guide: Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004, pp. 43, 71, cat. 69, color illus. p. 43.

Milwaukee Art Museum News, September/October 2002, back cover, color illus.

This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.