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TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE: THE ART OF ALINA SZAPOCZNIKOW

Alina Szapocznikow working on Le Voyage (Journey), 1967, in her studio in Paris, 1967.

IT WAS THE MID-1980S, a bleak, depressed era in post-martial-law Poland, when I first saw Alina Szapocznikow’s 1967 sculpture Le Voyage (Journey) at Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz. Strolling pretty much alone through the museum’s galleries, I came upon it suddenly: a slender waxy-white nude that seemed to recline in the air. Perched on a tiny metal plinth and leaning back at a steep angle, improbably balanced between standing and falling, it denied gravity with the ease of a specter. Rounded pads of blue-green polyester covered the figure’s eyes like the lenses of oversize sunglasses, conveying hippie-era modishness but also evoking blindness, a state of perceptual impairment that is the opposite of the awareness connoted by hip. The mouth and nipples were bright red. The hair, articulated as two petal-like solid extensions, encircled the face, while the top of the head opened up slightly

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