San Francisco

Polly Apfelbaum

CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

Polly Apfelbaum’s arrangements of pieces of stained crushed velvet defy easy categorization or description. For her show at the school’s McBean Gallery, she used this modest material to create a piece of cinematic proportions called The Night, 1996–97—a title, appropriately enough, borrowed from an early Antonioni film. Thousands of stains measuring an inch or two in either dimension had been neatly cut out of cream-colored fabric, singly or in small chained clusters, and arranged on the floor of the gallery—a peculiar, irregularly shaped room dominated at one end by a large concrete staircase. Around the edge of the stains a narrow border of the fabric’s original color remained, creating a terrific charge, as the groups of gray and black blobs coalesced and separated into Rorschach-like fields.

Like landscape, The Night was so large that different vantage points in the gallery yielded

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