Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, b. 1930)

Cage, 1981

Burlap, glue, and wood

66 x 46 x 61 in. (167.6 x 116.8 x 155 cm)

Gift of Ralph I. and Helyn D. Goldenberg

Magdalena Abakanowicz lives and works in Warsaw. In addition to reflecting her personal history—growing up in Poland during World War II—her sculpture speaks eloquently of the universal human experience of struggle against restrictive forces, whether they be artistic, spiritual, economic, or political.

In Cage, a single burlap cast of a man’s back—hunched slightly, as if defeated by life—sits within a rough log structure, seemingly trapped in the restrictive and isolated space. Through her use of organic materials, Abakanowicz seems to suggest that despair is natural to the human condition.