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Polly Apfelbaum
Jordan Schnitzer Museum at Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
Recommendation by Gabe Scott

Polly Apfelbaum, “Atomic Mystic Portrait”, 2017, monoprint, 25 7/8 x 17”. Courtesy of the artist and Durham Press

Continuing through March 14 2020


“Frequently the Woods are Pink,” titled after an Emily Dickenson poem, is Polly Apfelbaum’s first survey, an intoxicating collection of her elaborate, electric woodblock prints that highlights her 17-year working relationship with Durham Press in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As the 19th and early 20th century Pennsylvania Germans used their decorative aesthetic to reference themes of community, religion, social structure, politics, and everyday life, Apfelbaum has utilized her pattern painting, ornamentation, installation, and design motifs to address feminism, gender politics, multiculturalism and various accepted social histories in an all-encompassing presentation.


Selected from the artist’s “Atomic Mystic” series, the monoprints were created over a week-long visit to Durham Press in the fall of 2017. The “Atomic Mystic” prints function as an extension of Apfelbaum’s ‘’fallen paintings’’, floor-based installations consisting of dyed and treated fabric components and other sculptural elements. The works themselves required the support of six additional printmakers, as hundreds of woodblocks, cast in various patterns and colors, were spontaneously placed in printing jigs, allowing for in-depth experimentation into an array of composed color fields and tones, including blue, yellow, black and red. Apfelbaum, herself a Montgomery County, PA native, masterfully references pillars of Pennsylvanian-German folk art through the formulation of triangles, circles, diamonds, flowers and pinwheels. It’s all woven together in a series of spellbinding chromatic tapestries. The kaleidoscopic compositions themselves move, shift and pulsate with dynamic energy that elicits a range of references to aerosol-based street art in her home of New York City, as well the gradient roots of Italian Futurism.

Washington State Univ., Jordan Schnitzer Museum

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