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Enigmatic "Group of Ten" Takes Its Place as Davidson's Latest Outdoor Sculpture

by Davidson College
Group of Ten sculpture
"Group of Ten" as it was installed recently, before final landscaping.

The Davidson College campus population has grown by ten recently with the installation of The Group of Ten by noted Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. Her creation of ten rough-hewn figures standing in close order has been installed beside a main pedestrian thoroughfare linking the Alvarez College Union and Chambers Building.

The installation of The Group of Ten continues the college's association with Abakanowicz. An exhibition of her sculpture was held in the Van Every Galleries in 2010. In addition The Group of Ten was previously on view in the college's Van Every Galleries in connection with an exhibition in January and February of new works in the college's permanent collection.

The Group of Ten was donated to the college as a gift of the artist and by Katherine Belk-Cook, Linda and George Kelly, parents of Win Kelly '02 and Madeline Kelly '08, Virginia Newell '78, and Pat and B.D. Rodgers.

Professor of English Alan Michael Parker wrote an essay describing how Abakanowicz's sculptures poignantly reflect the human condition. He wrote:

"Who are we? The figures of Magdalena Abakanowicz seem to pose this question, their knotty, gnarled surfaces time-beaten and yet enduring, the groupthink of the 20th Century–in her case, the manipulations and crimes of Nazis and Soviets, successively–performed by the almost-human bronzes marching in place. Or maybe they wait for something or someone, mythologized as biological forms?

"Inevitably social, the human animal likes to belong. Whether we see ourselves as distinct from the crowds in which we move and mingle, we are subject at all times to historical forces greater than what we can know, ground into the present, grounded by our experiences. But what we can imagine–that is another story, even literally so. In our imaginations, we belong to the beyond. There we aspire to the other; there we hope to join with some thing or some one beyond what we know. My sense is that moving within and among a grouping of sculptures by Magdalena Abakanowicz, we come close to moving purely within our imaginations, in our bodies and beyond them as well."

Professor of Art Cort Savage, whose specialty is sculpture, said Abakanowicz is one of the most important female sculptors of her generation. Savage said, "She brought fiber arts into the mainstream of sculpture, and brought the human figure back to art in the 1970s when it was emerging from minimalism."

Her works have long been exhibited and collected by the world's most prestigious museums and institutions. She has received honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the world, including the Royal College of Art in London and the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland. She has won many artistic prizes and awards, including the Award of International Sculpture Center for Life Achievements, and the Visionaries Award from the American Craft Museum in New York.