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Polly Apfelbaum's Split Spills Across Floor at KC's Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Polly Apfelbaum, Split, 1998; synthetic velvet, fabric dye; dimensions variable; Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection; Museum Purchase, Enid and Crosby Kemper and William T. Kemper Acquisition Fund, 2004.7

KANSAS CITY, MO.- Since the early 1990s, American artist Polly Apfelbaum has been absorbed by staining—pouring and dripping fabric dye onto cotton sheeting and synthetic velvet. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art draws from its permanent collection for the exhibition Polly Apfelbaum: Split, on view February 6– August 9, 2009, at the Kemper Museum (4420 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri). The exhibition features the artist’s 1998 work Split, an organically shaped arrangement of dyed, crushed velvet.

By “blotting” the fabric, Apfelbaum creates organic, rather than gestural, fields and patterns of pure color. Reminiscent of stained canvases by many artists associated with Color Field painting, such as Dan Christensen, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland, Apfelbaum’s dyed fabrics often are installed on the wall, stacked neatly, or sprawled across the floor, and allude not only to painting and sculpture, but also to a myriad of categories in between: drawing, collage, tapestries, bed sheets, and clothing.

Apfelbaum’s Split is a litany of odd-shape swatches of crushed stretch velvet. Stained in alternating colors and individually arranged, each saturated segment bleeds into neighboring swatches, forming a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and textures. Responding to the surrounding architecture, the work organically spreads over the gallery floor, visually disarming us with its colorful decorative motif. Split was on view in a 2004 exhibition of her work at the Kemper Museum.

Hear a podcast, called Kemper Artcasts, that gives behind-the-scenes look at the installation of this work at

A 1978 graduate of Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, PA, Apfelbaum lives and works in New York. Her works are found in collections throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, and Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France.

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