Museum Exhibition
Rhode Island
10 Sept 20233 Jan 2024
Polly Apfelbaum always finds a way to disrupt assumptions of the exhibition floor. In the 90’s, the term ‘fallen paintings’ was first used to describe her unique large-scale installations, which consist of hundreds of delicate hand-dyed and hand-cut fabric pieces arranged in complex patterns on the floor. In 1998, she pushed this idea further in Compulsory Figures, which is a touchpoint for this exhibition. Compulsory Figures directly references a term for circular patterns that made up a technical segment in figure skating. Composed of two or three symmetrical circles, it is the tracing from a skater’s blades that creates the patterns on the ice. Polly’s ‘figures’ were large-scale velvet fabric rectangles, laid out in geometric pairs. The effect is as sculptural as it is painterly and minimalist as it is maximalist; these dichotomies make Polly’s work so compelling and joyfully immersive.
“The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss” consists of several new installations and is the very first time that Polly’s ceramics have moved from the wall to the site of the floor. Polly began working in clay in 2010, which has become a critical component of her practice. Taking the form of hanging beads, layered glazed slabs, colorful rocks, mugs, sticks, and bowls, Polly explores the potential of ceramics through color and form and pushes them into new physical and conceptual sites. Compulsory Figures(slabs) consists of 100 new colors in unique pairings on 50 glazed terracotta slabs. The Color Charts act as maps or compass points to all the work, laying out glaze and color experiments on textured tablets. Reminiscent of Polly’s earlier hand-dyed floor installation, the 492-piece Bits and Pieces is made from cast-off clay, which originated as sketches for Polly’s wall works and now function as an installation of intimate fallen paintings. The title is a reference to artist Lawrence Weiner’s 2005 text work Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole. The beauty of this work is that it is not ‘whole;’ these objects move fluidly within Polly’s practice and are never installed the same way. The 100 brightly painted paper circles that make up Hilma Heads, directly reference a painting by the mystical artist Hilma af Klimt, as well as early color samples that Polly began a few years back. The Hilma Heads are a bridge between the early Compulsory Figures and the new slabs; they offer another set of color pairings although in gouache and not glaze.
Collaboratively, this new work responds to, references, and cycles back to Polly’s forty-year career. It also represents the very first time that Polly’s ceramics have been moved to the floor. Through her rigorous tracings of pattern and color, “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss” acts as a collaborative road map creating infinite possibilities of complex geometry and moments of focused delight.
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  • Scott Alario
  • © ODD-KIN
  • Courtesy: ODD-KIN

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