‘WHEN THE DEEP PURPLE FALLS OVER SLEEPY GARDEN WALLS AND THE STARS BEGIN TO TWINKLE IN THE SKY — IN THE MIST OF A MEMORY YOU WANDER BACK TO ME BREATHING MY NAME WITH A SIGH…’
music: Peter De Rose
text: Mitchell Parish (1938)
The career of the New York artist Polly Apfelbaum (°1955, Abington, Pennsylvania) began at the end of the 70s. European museums, galleries and public spaces followed her work from the beginning of the 90s. They were fascinated by her Fallen Paintings – pieces of cut-out hand-painted textiles that form an installation on the floor. The Brussels’ gallery, Etienne Ficheroulle, was first to exhibit her work in Belgium in 1991 and again in 1993. However, other European galleries soon followed. Today, Apfelbaum’s work can be viewed in museum collections all over the world, including the MoMA in New York and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. In 2013 she received the American Prix de Rome, after which she took up residency in Rome for a year. One of the things she discovered on her trips through Italy was the 6th century early Christian mosaics in the basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna.
Polly Apfelbaum’s oeuvre is situated where the art of painting, sculpture and installation intersect. Her work is a mix of two- and three-dimensional art. With her installations, Apfelbaum introduces various ‘female’ techniques such as weaving, into today’s contemporary art world. In Be-Part she combines a modern-day discourse with the tradition of handwoven carpets in a special in-situ project. For this exhibition, Polly Apfelbaum designed carpets that practically cover the exhibition spaces. The architectural capabilities of this building with its diverse use of materials, its transparency and differences in levels play an important role in the work. The traditional woven woolen carpets come from the village of Teotitlán del Valle in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. The whole community is involved in the making of the carpets. Once she has sent the final design through to them, Apfelbaum relinquishes control over her work for a part. This allows the weavers the freedom to approach the assignment from their own social viewpoint and tradition. We are invited, as spectators, to enjoy, to study and to become part of the work of art.
Deep Purple, Red Shoes is composed of three carpet installations in nocturnal shades from deep red to deep purple. The colour bands flow beautifully into one another. The apocalyptic red circles symbolize a bright red moon. The footsteps in the carpets take their inspiration from the red shoes of the virgins in the mosaics in de basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna. These footsteps form a repetitive pattern throughout the exhibition. We too, as spectators, leave our own invisible, chaotic pattern of footsteps behind. The footsteps also invite the spectator to become one with the earth. Polly Apfelbaum has the following to say about Deep Purple, Red Shoes: “I often refer to music in my titles. Deep Purple is not only an imperial and religious colour, it’s also the name of a progressive, experimental hard rock band of the 60s and 70s. The band took its name from a 1938 song. I love it when my titles add an additional ‘colour’ to my work.”
This project is the fourth in a series of recent carpet works by Polly Apfelbaum:
Polly Apfelbaum, Miss Dior, Grand Palais, Paris, 2013
Polly Apfelbaum, Evergreen Blueshoes, BCA, Burlington, Vermont, USA, 2014
Polly Apfelbaum & Dan Cole, For the Love of Gene Davis, Temple Contemporary, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, USA, 2014
Polly Apfelbaum, Deep Purple, Red Shoes, Be-Part, Waregem, Belgium, 2015
Make sure you wear nice socks and be prepared to leave your shoes at the door as you make your way through the exhibition.
With thanks to the Frith Street Gallery, London.