Durham Press is pleased to present a new series of woodblock prints by Polly Apfelbaum. Inspired, in part, by her time spend abroad as a recipient of the 2012-13 Rome Prize, these profound works reference the artistic and craft traditions of Italy and offer fresh perspectives on many themes that Apfelbaum has explored throughout her career.
Baroque Time Machine and Byzantine Time Machine are monoprint series in two sizes, 37 x 70 inches and 79 x 79 inches, which feature powerful, vertical lines. Their titles simultaneously suggest backward and forward temporal movement, signaling historical influences and new aesthetic directions. While the compositions of the two series recall some of her rug and fabric works, the addition of black – used sparingly in some prints and frequently in others – creates a more complex color palette and gives the prints “the weight of drapery,” says Apfelbaum. Conversely, the contrast provided by black ink makes certain colors radiate with fluorescent-light-like intensity.
The fluorescence of the dramatic monoprints is further emphasized by Apfelbaum’s employment of split fountain or “rainbow roll” techniques, in which multiple colors are partially mixed to achieve a continuous gradient effect. In the Time Machines, she features rainbow rolls across elongated surfaces, while with her large, diamond monoprints – Galla Placidia, Boethius, Rusticiana, Servilia Caeponis, Aurelia Cotta, Porcia Catonis – the technique is used on much smaller woodblocks. Inspired by the intricate patterns of Cosmati floors, the matrixes for these complex diamond prints are similarly crafted with roughly 1500 hand-laid, mosaic-like blocks. The geometric and chromatic variations throughout the prints give them a dynamism befitting of their titles, most of which refer to influential Roman women. Apfelbaum’s two new editions, Emperor Twist and Empress Shout, engage a similar diamond and zig-zag pattern on a more intimate scale. Completed after the Cosmati-inspired monoprints, Twist and Shout continue to explore variations in color and shape through an “intuitive but structured process.” The development and realization of this process has resulted in a prolific year of collaboration, and this new body of work represents Apfelbaum’s most ambitious and challenging prints to date.