By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Polly Apfelbaum is coming back to Cincinnati.
The artist who made a splash here last fall as part of the Sprawl show at the former Contemporary Arts Center returns Dec. 5 with her first large museum survey.
The exhibition will follow the popular Somewhere Better Than This Place: Alternative Social Experience in the Spaces of Contemporary Art, which opened the new Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art at Sixth and Walnut streets, downtown, last month.
The center will announce this show and the remainder of its 2003-04 season tonight at a private reception.
"The variety of her work - its visual expansiveness and detail, its attention to divergent art histories and pop cultures - is dizzying," writes Claudia Gould, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, in the catalog for the show. The exhibition, featuring Apfelbaum's work from 1989 to the present, took Gould two years to curate.
Apfelbaum refers to her luscious velvet installations as "fallen paintings." They are slices of juicy crushed velvet, vegetable-dyed and cut into psychedelic paramecia carefully splattered over the gallery floor. They reference pop culture - movies, punk rock bands and the dark side of nursery rhymes.
"I like the idea of doing pieces that are very beautiful and intuitive, seductive even, but that turn out to be more complex, to have more layers and more structure than people thought," Apfelbaum said in an interview with Gould. "This is essential when you talk about abstraction ... there is always some reference outside - a connection to place, to memory or to popular culture."
Because her sculpture/painting hybrids are installed on the floor, they allow for contemplation from a variety of angles and are approached as one would approach sculpture. But the colors are painterly and the organic forms undulate with jewel-like colors as they spread around corners and onto forms.
"Apfelbaum, 48, came of age when austere Minimalism, Conceptualism and fabricated art were in their prime," Ann Wilson Lloyd wrote recently in The New York Times. "Ever the contrarian, she yearned for irreverence, tactility and cheesy, fragile, everyday materials; but most of all the trace of the artist's hand."
"I wanted to bring in the everyday," Apfelbaum told Lloyd. "I loved just pouring a bottle of dye and making this beautiful stain. Or just dropping fabric on the floor and making a different piece every time."
The show will run through Feb. 29.
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