Polly Apfelbaum, “Powerpuff”

D’Amelio Terras, New York
November 11 – December 22, 2000

Powerpuff is an installation of three new large-scale floor pieces by Polly Apfelbaum.  Each of the works is constructed from hundreds of diamond-shaped pieces of dyed velvet that whirl out from a center to form a circular pool of color.  In contrast to the flowing and organic organization of Apfelbaum’s previous works, the rigorous internal logic in these pieces carries a centrifugal force that animates the soft, fluid material.  The Powerpuff pieces bounce against the gallery’s architectural elements, activating the space with their dense energy.

The title of the exhibition refers to a trio of cartoon characters known as the Powerpuff Girls: three wide-eyed and brightly colored superheroes named Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup. More than just an after-the-fact reference to popular culture, these characters inspired the identity of each of the three pieces. Just as the Powerpuff girls are identified by pose and hair color, each of Apfelbaum’s three pieces is structured by a complex color system anchored in a specific base color: yellow (blond), red or black.  For Apfelbaum, the Powerpuff Girls represent an optimistic new model of gender identity that allows the feminine to be playful and disciplined, beautiful and strong, intuitive and structured.

Apfelbaum’s work defies simple categories.  Neither painting nor sculpture, her practice contains elements of both, and her hybrid pieces occupy a physical, formal and historical space that is radically ambiguous.  The work is at once rigorously structural and unabashedly emotional.  Simple systems give rise to complex formal effects.  In Powerpuff Apfelbaum presents her unique synthesis of method and madness, reflecting the untranslatable complexity, energy, and unpredictability of the world.

Polly Apfelbaum lives and works in New York.  Public collections that have acquired her work include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Worcester Art Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  She has recently had solo exhibitions at Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, Los Angeles; Bowdoin College, Maine; and Galeria Camargo Vilaca, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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