LOS ANGELES — Otis College of Art and Design’s Ben Maltz Gallery recently wrapped up an amazing exhibition by Polly Apfelbaum, Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes (September 24 – December 4). My first thought upon seeing these images was of Jodorowsky and I was pleased to find out that he was a reference point for Apfelbaum’s work. The college states of the show:
Above image: Installation view of Polly Apfelbaum, Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes, 2016. Photographs courtesy of the college and the artist.
New York-based artist Polly Apfelbaum’s work has situated itself as a hybrid of painting, sculpture, and installation over a career spanning 30 years. Exploring the intricacies of color, Apfelbaum weaves her way, both literally and conceptually, through ideas of Minimalism, Pop aesthetics, and Color Field painting to blur the lines between two and three dimensional art making.
For Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes, Apfelbaum has worked with weavers in Oaxaca, Mexico to design and produce four large, 13 x 25 foot, area rugs inspired by a Tree of Life mosaic she encountered in Otranto, Italy, as well as LA’s rich history in New Age spirituality, Czech Fluxus artist Sonia Svecova’s eye collages of the 1960s, and Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mystical and religious film Holy Mountain (1973). The 12th century Otranto Cathedral floor mosaic is unique in that it depicts more than Biblical references, incorporating signs of the zodiac, as well as symbols from Greek, Scandinavian, and even pre- Islamic mythologies. For Apfelbaum, the use of eye imagery serves as a connecting icon, bridging belief systems, new-age and cult symbolism, and the idea of looking and seeking out spirituality. Apfelbaum has said this of the new work:
“I want to time travel from early pagan mysticism, to 1970’s new spiritualism, to Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain in the space of a rug-filled gallery.”
In addition to the new site-specific floor pieces, Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes includes more than 100 ceramic and wooden sculptures produced between 1988-2016 – many of which have never been exhibited before – as well as handmade ceramic beads suspended on thread. Ceramics and weaving are ancient crafts that take us to many of these mystical and philosophical histories. Visitors are invited to take their shoes off and spend time in the installation.
Apfelbaum’s earlier floor-bound installations incorporate hundreds of pieces of velvet, hand-dyed in bold hues and often arranged in sprawling configurations that appear to be organically inspired or like abstract paintings that melted off the wall, forming vibrant puddles. More recent pieces have included an ongoing series of highly colored and tactile ceramics, elegantly draped pieces of synthetic fabric inspired by Baroque paintings, ephemeral arrangements of glitter, and vibrant hand woven carpets.
Polly Apfelbaum has been showing consistently nationally and internationally since her first one-person show in New York in 1986. Recent solo exhibitions were held at 56 Henry in New York City; Be-Part in Waregem, Belgium; Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech; Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts; lumber room in Portland, Oregon; VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow, Ireland; and the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Recent two-person exhibitions were held at Michael Benevento in Los Angeles; The Suburban in Milwaukee; and Locks Gallery in Philadelphia. In 2003, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia organized a mid-career retrospective that traveled to the Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati and the Kemper Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri and was accompanied by a monograph publication with contributions by Ingrid Schaffner, Tim Griffin, and Irving Sandler, along with an interview between the artist and former ICA director Claudia Gould. The artist’s work is in numerous museum collections including MoMA, Whitney Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, and Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Apfelbaum has been the recipient of many distinguished awards, fellowships, and grants including Distinguished Alumna, Temple Contemporary, Temple University, Philadelphia, 2013; Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome, Italy, 2012; Residency Fellowship, National Academy, 2011; Arts and Letters Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters; Joan Mitchell Grant; Anonymous Was A Woman Grant; and the John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Fellowship in Sculpture.
Ongoing and upcoming exhibitions include Painting in Time: Part Two, Sullivan Galleries, School of Art Institute Chicago, through December 17, 2016; Wall to Wall: Carpets by Artists, MOCA Cleveland, September 23, 2016-January 8, 2017; Sounds and Songs of Textiles, Brown University, Cohen Gallery, Providence, Rhode Island, September 26 – October 24, 2016.
Text (edited) and images courtesy of Otis College of Art and Design and the artist.
Do you love or loathe this exhibition of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.