Two Figures on Beam

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Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, b. 1930)
Two Figures on Beam, 1992
Burlap, resin and wood
84 1/4 × 104 3/4 × 22 1/2 in. (214 × 266.07 × 57.15 cm)
Gift in honor of Russell Bowman (Director, 1985-2002) by Contemporary Art Society, Donald and Donna Baumgartner, Friends of Art, Marianne and Sheldon B. Lubar, Harry V. and Betty Quadracci, Reiman Foundation, Sue and Bud Selig, Anthony and Andrea Bryant, Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Phyllis and William Huffman, Jane and George Kaiser, Phoebe R. and John D. Lewis Foundation, Marcus Corporation Foundation, James and Joanne Murphy, Gilbert and J. Dorothy Palay Family Foundation, Anthony Petullo Foundation, Suzanne and Richard Pieper Family Foundation, Justin and Holly Segel, Reva and Phil Shovers, Hope and Elmer Winter, African American Art Alliance, Nancy and Terry Anderson, Karen and William Boyd, Marilyn and Orren Bradley, Collectors' Corner, the Docents of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Jean and Ted Friedlander, Judy Gordon and Martin Siegel, George and Angela Jacobi, Susan and Lee Jennings, David and Cynthia Kahler, Herbert H. Kohl Charities, Inc., Mary Ann and Charles P. LaBahn, Arthur and Nancy Laskin, P. Michael Mahoney, Donna and Tony Meyer, Joyce and Nick Pabst, Jill and Jack Pelisek, Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III, David and Sibyl Wescoe, and Kathy and David Yuille M2002.59
Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Not Currently on View

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.

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