Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
Polly Apfelbaum creates what she calls “fallen paintings,” hybrid works of rare beauty that exist in a contentious, ambivalent space between painting, sculpture, and installation. Often arranged on the floor, spreading around corners in indeterminate shapes, Apfelbaum’s overall forms are comprised of intricate, nearly psychedelic layers of dyed fabric, as if myriad smaller paintings have accreted or grown from a central cluster of shapes and colors. Apfelbaum is known for her palate of stunning, eye-popping colors and hues. These works transform the colors of mass culture—of television, saturated magazine ads, bags of Wonder Bread—into wild, oscillating spectra bordering on the organic. Dusk red blots fan rows of yellow leaves; teardrop shapes of black nudge indigo forms resembling paramecium, single-cells, or algae blooms. Apfelbaum’s are paintings of ideas, certainly, but the concepts that drive her practice are ones of the body and of hungry-looking, rather than dry, exercises of the intellect or morality. As painting pushes past its traditional disciplinary forms, off the wall, and into pop culture, Apfelbaum’s work calls for audiences to think about the pleasure of aesthetic experience—and to experience the pleasure of aesthetics.