Review – Polly Apfelbaum

Oh my gosh, I am so happy right now. I have discovered an artist that I feel very excited about, more so that any of the photographers that I have discovered through Foundations in Photography.

Apfelbaum works with a variety of media, but I am particularly drawn to he hand dyed crushed velvet installations, where she makes an excellent use of colour and space. Walking through one of her exhibitions must be such a treat for the soul.

Apfelbaum,-P;-(2016);-Face-(Geometry)-(Naked)-Eyes-[mixed-media]Fig. 1. Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes; (2016)

The amount of space within the gallery strikes me as much as the colour, I believe that they compliment each other and I feel both peaceful, energetic and joyful. The composition of this photo makes me feel as if I am being hugged and safely contained. I can imagine standing where the camera is and not wanting to move.

During an interview by Sarah Miller Meigs, Apfelbaum says “My issues are color, surface and form – painterly issues, but the work unfolds in space… I like to react to the space of the gallery, and work with the large scale and site specificity, reacting to the architecture.” (Miller Meigs, S; 2014). The development of her installations has many processes, but the most important to her is that she spends time in a space, hours even, just observing the light, space and boundaries. She places small pieces of fabric on the floor in her studio and then she dies them. Her installations may include an addition of ceramics that hang from the ceiling or paintings on the wall, and fabric and paint that flows down the wall and across the floor. (Widewall; 2013 – 2018).

Erasing Tracing Racing Paint; Apfelbaum, P and Nelson, D; Michael Benevento, Los Angeles, CA, March 12 - May 17 2016Fig. 2. Erasing Tracing Racing Paint; (2016)

To attend an Apfelbaum exhibition at a gallery gives you the opportunity talk through her creations, and interact with the light and space that’s available, an immersion rather than a viewing. She says “It’s important to me that people have to move through the works so the spectator activates it and participates in the experience. As you move, the color and the nap of a fabric change and the work plays a lot with light.” (Marcoci, R; 2007).

Her work has been described in many ways, as art, pop, sculpture, feminism, installation, craft, photography, post minimalism, performance and abstract (Miller Meigs; 2016; Widewalls; 2013 – 2018; Ebony; 2017). One of her abstracts is of particular interest to me because I saw a photograph of it without a title, and I couldn’t get my head around it. Did it represent clothes laid out in an orderly fashion? A journey with other people who you meet along the way? Rigid thinking that constrains creativity? Although Apfelbaum had a very specific representation with this installation, she is glad that her work is open to interpretation, and each viewer can bring their own unique personality into the gallery.

Apfelbaum, P; (1992); The Dwarves Without Snow White, The Blot on my Bonnet, Amy Lipton Gallery, New York, NY [boxes and lids, stretched crushed velvet]Fig. 3. The Dwarves Without Snow White; (1992)

Speaking during an interview with Brooklyn Museum she discusses feminism and gender in relation to this piece and how she drew upon the work of other women that had created installations. With regard to the abstract nature pf this piece, there are eight boxes and only severn dwarves (re the title Without Snow White), because “If Snow White got her act together she could have a box. But at the time you had this very Disney world. The dwarves were absolutely much more emotional and more fun, having a great time.” (Polly Apfelbaum, 2008). This highlights for me gender roles in relation to relaxation time and leisure for the man that went out to work, and the subservient woman whose role around the house didn’t stop at 5pm, but continued once the man got home and after the children had gone to bed. This division of labour and leisure, privilege and unworthiness have become so ingrained that even with a demand for change, the progres is very slow.

I find these insights into feminism very revealing. I have been aware of the societal construct and reinforcement of gender roles for many years, but it’s always pertinent to have a new perspective.

I would like to finish with one last photo of Apfelbaums art, and I do so because it highlights the intensity, creativity, time and dedication that she flows from her intuitive spirit. This piece is made of 1040 individual pieces of fabric that are hand dyed so that the colours include all of the Sennelier 104-color dye chart. This is not made once and then sown together, rather, each time she has an exhibition, she goes along to the space and gets a feel for how she can best present, then uses her intuition to re-lay “Blossom” onto the floor. Each installation will have three or four variations of the same piece which has different colours that are more dominant from piece to piece, the patterns change through out because of this. She does not make use of assisstants and performs this herculean task alone. By observing the two images below we can see how the lighting, floor and colour of the walls all allow Blossom to be a dynamic, changing and living work of Art

Apfelbaum, P; (2000) ; Blossom [Synthetic velvet and fabric dye] Collections of Museum of Modern Art, New YorkFig. 4. Blossom (2000)

Apfelbaum, P; (2000) ; Blossom Powerpuff, D_Amelio Terras, New York, NY. 2000Fig. 5. Blossom (2000)

 

Illustrations

Figure 1;  Apfelbaum, P; (2016); Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes [mixed media]; AT: http://www.pollyapfelbaum.com/2016/face-geometry-naked-eyes/ (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Figure 2;  Apfelbaum, P and Nelson, D; 2016; Erasing Tracing Racing Paint at the  Michael Benevento, Los Angeles, CA, March 12 – May 17 2016; AT: http://www.pollyapfelbaum.com/2016/erasing-tracing-racing-paint/ (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Figure 3; Apfelbaum, P; (1992); The Dwarves Without Snow White, The Blot on my Bonnet [boxes and lids, stretched crushed velvet] at the Amy Lipton Gallery, New York, NY; AT: http://www.pollyapfelbaum.com/floor/early-stain/ (accessed on 11/05/2014)

Figure 4; Figure 5; Apfelbaum, B; 2000; Blossom [Synthetic velvet and dye] at MoMA, Manhatten; AT: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/86477 (accessed on 1/05/2018)

Figure 5; Apfelbaum, B; 2000; Blossom [Synthetic velvet and dye] at the D’Amelio Terras, New York, NY; AT: http://www.dameliogallery.com/artists/polly-apfelbaum?view=slider#14 (accessed on 11/05/2018)

 

References

Ebony, D; 2017; Polly Apfelbaum, New York, at Alexander Gray Associates; Online AT: https://www.artinamericamagazine.com/reviews/polly-apfelbaum/ (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Marcoci, R; 2007; [interview by author March 4-June 11, 2007]; “COMIC ABSTRACTION: Image-breaking, Image Making. “The Museum of Modern Art Interviews, March 4-June 11, 2007; London; Thames and Hudson: pp. 42-49; Online at: http://www.pollyapfelbaum.com/files/article1.pdf (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Miller Meigs, S; 2014; [Interview by Author 2014]; “Q and A with Polly”; Online AT: http://www.pollyapfelbaum.com/files/Polly_Interview_04_14_SarahZ_Meigs.pdf (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Polly Apfelbaum [interview online]; Brooklyn Museum (2008) 4.26 mins At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syaX9U78_zw (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Widewall;  2013 – 2018); Polly Apfelbaum/ Polly Apfelbaum, United States 1955, Installation, Painting; Online AT: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/polly-apfelbaum/ (accessed on 11/05/2018)

 

7 Replies to “Review – Polly Apfelbaum”

  1. Interesting work Richard but to be honest I do struggle with some of the interpretation and artists explanation of the work. Personally I like them for purely visual reasons, I find them pleasant to look at, but I guess that is OK or must we see something more?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, our vision is really important, without it who are we creatively? Both Signer and Apfelbaum have been in the creative field and been immersed in the work of others. Apfelbaum states she is influenced by others but her work comes from her. Signer claims he’s not influenced by others at all. Getting to know others and how they work will mean that we find there are some that we are drawn to and others were repelled by. And thank god. Either way it’s good practice of viewing and exploring why we like or dislike what we do.

      Like

  2. Its great to see your enthusiasm, Richard. I can feel it sitting so far away. Great. The work is appealing and happy to look at visually and I am glad that you related to it so well. I love the yellow gallery exhibition – it does give you that feeling you safety and warmth. Great review Richard.

    On a totally unrelated note, I somehow agree with Jonathan though. I have been in this field long enough to experience artists’ quirks yet this has been my biggest challenge in the various works/references of artists/photographers that I was required to refer to during the coursework. I somehow feel that I am unable to relate to a lot of work and somehow am just not able to understand it. I have come to the conclusion that I am just not mature enough to see the reason why a lot of them were awarded such great international recognition and awards. For instance, the last work here is something that is achieved ditto by Indian village women as a patchwork rug. So much so that for a minute I felt it was inspired by them. Yet, I see no one recognizing their work. Then does a lot of it comes from the fact of being in the right place at the right time and excellent networking skills? This is just some random thoughts – not to kill your enthusiasm, Richard. Am being more generic here and not for the artist you have reviewed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not at all, my enthusiasm remains. In my analysis of Zelt I mentioned the pretentiousness of the creative world when it comes to deciding what is art and what isn’t. So I am in agreement with you. In movies, song, dance, art it’s the same. Very few people get recognition for their talent. Virtually any when we consider how many creatives there in world. An often we know people who are far more talented than those with fame.

      With Zelt yesterday, by researching Signer I got to understand a little more about his character, technique etc and felt much warmer to him, but I still don’t like Zelt.

      Isn’t it ok to not get something or someone? Maybe still able to recognise their creativity even if what they produce is repulsive? Who decides that Van Gogh is worth millions? I hate sunflowers and I certainly know more talented artists.

      Liked by 2 people

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