Polly Apfelbaum is in rebellion. Unlike the pleasing forms and intricate color schemes of the floor-based fabric arrangements she’s known for, her latest installation of jagged panels in sequined cloth is attention-grabbing but jarring. Off Colour derives its title and loud appearance from amateur nude photos that Apfelbaum found at a London flea market, suggesting a futile attempt at titillation.
At previous shows Apfelbaum had brought in work crafted in her workshop, but this installation was made directly in the gallery. The result—slender fabric strips extending into the corners or hugging columns—could barely be termed a response to this unremarkable space, though the artist has upended expectations by diverting our attention from the walls to the floor. Still, tiptoeing between the zones of crimson, pink, yellow, green and orange (that a sign warns us not to touch) is more awkward than absorbing; the scheme is so calculated that it discourages any desire for interaction.
On the plus side, the panels’ rough edges, geometry and scattered appearance recall Jean Arp’s torn-paper collages, and look like they might harbor some sort of meaningful relationship between the shapes and the negative spaces they create. Unfortunately, a more concrete reading is elusive, as if Apfelbaum had deliberately left behind a self-conscious collection of isolated parts that, like her source photos, lead us on but give us no satisfaction.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 785, October 14-20, 2010.