Ida Applebroog

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
4040 NE 2nd Avenue
July 8, 2016–October 30, 2016

Ida Applebroog, Mercy Hospital, 1970, ink and watercolor on paper, 24 x 19".

“Mercy Hospital,” an intimate exhibition of Ida Applebroog’s work, creates a narrative both poignant and bitterly ironic about illness and institutions. The series “Mercy Hospital,” 1969–70, comprises her private diary created over a six-week stay in a San Diego psychiatric ward. As an alternative to conventional therapeutic methods, Applebroog rendered abstracted images of limbs or alien-like womb forms in pencil, ink, and glowing washes of watercolor. To these she added phrases such as “Not made in America” and “Upside-down Appelbaum”—the latter incorporating her maiden name. (She legally changed her surname from her husband’s, Horowitz, to Applebroog in 1974.) Several large drawings on Mylar, from her 2012 “Catastrophes” series, depict hospital waiting rooms and sinister interactions between patients and doctors.

The exhibition also includes “A Performance,” 1977–81, a series of three staple-bound books Applebroog created as mail art. Related to the Pictures generation’s obsession with the freeze-frame, Applebroog’s books contain simple drawings repeated page after page that gain their power from captions that seem to contradict the ostensible truth of the images. One of the volumes, It Doesn’t Sound Right, 1977, includes static illustrations of a woman in a mourning pose—hands folded over her chest, standing beside an empty bed. Interspersed are pages of text that trace a dramatic arc of a woman’s complaints fatally ignored: “She says, ‘You are killing me,’” “It doesn’t sound right,” “Nobody ever dies of it.” In The Sweet Smell of Sage Enters the Room, 1977, the titular phrase follows repeated images of a man striking a woman kneeling on the ground. These stripped-down stories suggest the mundanity and horror of living under patriarchy and the military-industrial-medical complex.

— Wendy Vogel