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The body – under pressure, in pieces, subject to social and political upheaval – is the focus of Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow’s powerful work, here given its first UK retrospective.

Working through one of the most tumultuous periods in history, Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973) explored physicality and the human figure against a backdrop of turbulence and torture.

Her own life had been indelibly marked by the Holocaust – trapped aged 14 in the Pabianice and Łódz ghettos with her mother and brother, then moved via Auschwitz to the camps of Bergen-Belsen and Theresienstadt, she committed herself after the war to being an artist and studied in Prague and Paris.

This exhibition presents more than 100 works spanning Szapocznikow’s career, taking the viewer chronologically through her manipulation and dismantling of the human form. There is a particular focus on works made in the late 1960s and early 70s, when Szapocznikow created some of her most original and perhaps unsettling forms, turning casts of her body parts into everyday objects like lamps and ashtrays; and there is also a look at her series Herbarium (1972), in which she made casts of her son Piotr as well as herself.

Also included is a selection of drawings that have rarely been seen in public, offering further insight into Szapocznikow’s practice, plus personal photographs, archival material and film.

The Hepworth Wakefield

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