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Flock I (1990)
Abakanowicz gained recognition as a fibre artist pushing the boundaries of the genre and reinventing textile as an art object in its own right. In the 1960s textile works in Europe ceased to be considered purely decorative or representative of applied arts. Abakanowicz spearheaded this change by introducing crude fibres and new materials fashioned into bold, three-dimensional forms that, in the absence of any forerunners of the genre that might lend a clue to naming, she called Abakans: after herself.
From the early 1970s on Abakanowicz was drawn into the field of sculpture, creating increasingly realistic renditions of the human body or its fragments. From oval, egg-like shapes, standing upright or scattered around the exhibition spaces, to hunched over human torsos or full figures, albeit always devoid of heads, and frequently displayed outdoors – the artist’s works, consisting of multiple similar elements, oscillate between a sense of physical presence and anonymity. Visually coarse, made either of burlap and resin or cast in bronze, the faceless human figures dominated Abakanowicz’s practice from the mid 1980s.
Flock I in Muzeum Susch, presents 20 figures stood as if for a roll call with their shoulders pinned back and hands hung loosely down. This grouping embodies the crucial tension between individuality and multiplicity that informed much of the artist’s practice – regardless of whether it is read as a statement on the bleakness of existence under an oppressive regime or a universal reflection on the human condition. The artist commented: ‘I feel overwhelmed by the kind of quantity where counting no longer makes sense. And by the uniqueness within this quantity. A crowd of people or birds, insect or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype. A mystery of the workings of nature which either abhors exact repetition or is unable to achieve it. Just as the human hand cannot repeat its own gesture twice.’