LONDON—American multimedia artist Polly Apfelbaum’s works on display in Polly Apfelbaum: Dubuffet’s Feet My Hands at Frith Street gallery (November 24, 2017 – February 2, 201) gently imbue a sense of naiveté with their immersive, primary tonality and rough hewn form.
Featured image: Polly Apfelbaum, My Hands, 10, 2017, Glaze on terracotta, 21.7 x 26.5 x 1 cm
Characteristic of childhood’s traced turkey hands, her shiny ceramic works My Hands has evolved from Apfelbaum’s ongoing experiments with glazed ceramics using her own hand as her template creating a relationship to the artist’s touch while also dealing with ideas about craft and making, from prehistoric times to children’s pre-school handprints, the gallery writes.
They take their inspiration from the ‘floating hand of God’ in the mosaics of the basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, which she visited during a residency at the American Academy in Rome in 2013. Apfelbaum was fascinated by this image of the disembodied hand as the symbol of creation and intervention.
Apfelbaums works can be seen through the contextual lens of Immanual Kant’s description of the of hand as “the visible part of the brain” or as invoking Portuguese author José Saramago’s celebration of the intelligence of the hand:
“The brain-in-the-head has always lagged behind the hands, and even now, when it seems to have overtaken them, the fingers still have to summarise for it the results of their tactile investigations, the shiver that runs across the epidermis when it touches clay, the lacerating sharpness of the graver, the acid biting into the plate, the faint vibration of a piece of paper laid flat, the orography of textures, the crosshatching of fibres, the alphabet of the world in relief.”
In juxtaposition not only in modality, but also intentionality, Apfelbaum’s bold sprawling hand-woven carpets appear to feature amorphous geometric forms, similar to those of the 1960s and 70s, but upon closer inspection, one can observe an oversized foot print, Contemporary Art Daily writes.
Apfelbaum worked with weavers in Oaxaca, Mexico, where the Zapotec people have been weaving textiles for over 2,000 years. Entitled Dubuffet’s Feet, this floor work is based on a small drawing titled Footprints in the Sand by Jean Dubuffet from his 1948 sketchbook El Golea II, which the artist saw at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Apfelbaum has translated the image into a series of hand-woven rugs, each depicting an enormous footprint of a figure who would be over 100 feet tall.
Apfelbaum’s work is also on exhibition in group show Spieltrieb at Jack Hanley Gallery (New York, January 6 – February 4, 2018).
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