Her first major independent achievement was based on using three-dimensional textiles as a medium. Abakanowicz became intimately associated with soft sculptures known as 'Abakans'.Abanowicz being interested by the texture of matter, particularly the organic nature of her medium of choice. Abakans - made from dyed sisal fibre - with its multiplied organic nature - was shocking. At exhibitions they were suspended from the ceiling, unidentifiable monsters wrapped in canvas cloth. The artist broke with the tradition of flat surfaces of decorative textiles hung against the walls. Years later she wrote, 'The Abakans irritated. They were untimely. There was the French tapestry in weaving, pop-art and conceptual art, and here there were some complicated, huge, magical (forms)...'
Abakans reflected Abakanowicz's sculptor-like approach to fabric and to the technical possibilities of manipulating the medium. She took advantage of its softness, pliancy, and submissiveness. However, the huge, circular sheets take on an animalistic form under the artist's touch. Abakans look dangerous, their hides resembling stripped off giant monsters, an effect enhanced by the artist's use of a superhuman scale for these mysterious beings.
In the space of the gallery she would place a few dozen oval forms made of sackcloth filled with a soft substance. According to the artist, this was an expression of her childhood experience:
"After many years soft things of complicated tissue have become my material. I feel a kinship with the world which I do not want to know but through touching, feeling and relating to the part of myself which I carry deep inside me. (...) There is no tool between me and the material I use. I choose it with my hands. I shape it with my hands. My hands transmit my energy to it. By translating an idea into a shape, they will always pass on something escaping conceptualisation. They will reveal the unconscious."(Author: Malgorzata Kitowska-Lysiak, Art History Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, 2004. Updated by Agnieszka Le Nart, January 2011.culture.pl )
In 1986-87 she created a series of fifty standing figures called The Crowd I. She also began to once again work around organic structures, such as her Embryology series, which consisted of several dozen soft egg-like lumps varying in size. These were dispersed round an exhibition room at the Vienna Biennial in 1980.
These humanoid works of the 1970s and 1980s were centered around human culture and nature as a whole and its condition and position in modern society. The multiplicity of the human forms represents confusion and anonymity, analyzing an individual's presence in a mass of humanity. These works have close connections to Abakanowicz's life living in a Communist regime which repressed individual creativity and intellect in favor of the collective interest. These works also contrast with her earlier Abakan series, which were individually powerful pieces, whereas the figurative sculptures lost their individuality in favor of multiplicity.Wikipedia