Polly Apfelbaum studied painting at the Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and Purchase College, State University of New York.
For 30 years now, Polly Apfelbaum has been subverting the manifest proclamations and perspectives of a canon of art that strives to define the genres of sculpture, painting, and drawing, as well as the styles of Minimal art, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop art. Her approach is fundamentally anti-authoritarian, and she is a master of paradox interventions tinged with humor and skepticism. She uses the ambiguous name Fallen Paintings for her objects, which can operate with many (sometimes contradictory and dialectical) references, abstraction and figuration, narratives, post-minimalism and appropriation art, heroes like Matisse, Duchamp, or Andy Warhol, or high culture and popular culture, feminism and handiwork. Apfelbaum’s subversive strategy employs materials – like synthetic velvet, clay, and Plasticine – which she uses to reintroduce materiality, color, and (not least) sensuousness into an ossified, aurally focused art world.
Apfelbaum regards her works as radically provisional, which is why they can never be permanent. They are immediate and are based on a temporary order within the circumstances of chance; their focus is on possibilities and processes, not on a permanent end result.
Polly Apfelbaum was invited in 1997 by Harald Szeemann to participate at the 4th Lyon Biennale. In 1998, she took part in the 11th Biennale of Sydney. In 2003, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia organized a comprehensive, mid-career survey exhibition of Polly Apfelbaum’s work, which then travelled to the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City in the following year.
Polly Apfelbaum’s works are part of such renowned collections as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Brooklyn Museum in New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the National Academy Museum in New York.
Alongside numerous grants, Polly Apfelbaum received the Anonymous Was a Woman Award in 1998 and the Rome Prize in 2012.
PA abstract tileworks (pink stars and squares), 2022