December 9, 2019

Alina Szapocznikow, Iluminowana (Illuminated Woman), 1966-1967

While Polish-born artist Alina Szapocznikow’s biography is fascinating, if harrowing—she was a Holocaust survivor and died of cancer at the age of forty-six—her work conveys a sense of joy, ecstasy and a nuanced expression of the corporeal. This piece, Illuminowana, embodies her marriage of Surrealist influences with avant-garde approaches to the possibilities of sculpture and materiality. By the time she’d created this piece in the mid-1960s, Szapocznikow had begun to incorporate more mechanical elements such as car parts and industrial materials like polyester resin and poured polyurethane foam into her work as a way of exploring the connection between mass-production and the body. As the artist said, “Plastic materials seem perfect to me for attempts to express and capture our age because of their repetitive possibilities, their lightness, their colours, their transparency, their inexpensiveness.” Szapocznikow’s work is currently on show in the exhibition To Exalt the Ephemeral until 21 December at Hauser & Wirth New York.

© ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy the Estate of Alina Szapocznikow / Piotr Stanislawski / Galerie Loevenbruck, Paris / Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Fabrice Gousset