In 1972 Color Field painter Gene Davis created what was billed as the world’s largest painting, “Franklin’s Footpath,” a “ground” mural that stretched along an expanse of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway sweeping up to the monumental steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sponsored by the museum’s Department of Urban Outreach, this outlandish project had a profound impact on a young student at the Tyler School of Art, Polly Apfelbaum, as the now-internationally renowned experimental painter of, most famously, floor paintings explained in a recent lecture at Temple University (of which Tyler is now part). Apfelbaum was the 2013 Distinguished Alumna in an annual program that pairs Tyler alumni with recent graduates, in this case Dan Cole who received his BFA in 2010, in a mentoring relationship. The two have collaborated on an interactive, “immersive” installation at Temple Contemporary for which Apfelbaum designed a striped wool rug, commissioned from artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico, along with matching wallpaper. Cole’s band, Revedog, meanwhile, produced music and video that played on opening night while the younger artist also devised the exhibition poster from a collage of himself and a 21 year old Apfelbaum (with dog) superimposed on the iconic Time Magazine double-age spread of Davis painting (sweeping actually) his underfoot mural. The whole exercise – the Davis original, the Apfelbaum revisiting, the Cole wrap up – is, you could say, an essay in lineage.
And for those of us who can’t make it down to Philly, there’s a chance to catch up with the rare visual imagination of Polly Apfelbaum at Clifton Benevento, the SoHo gallery, where her “Handweaver’s Pattern Book” is on view through August 8 at 515 Broadway between Broome and Spring streets.
For the Love of Gene Davis remains on view at Temple Contemporary, Tyler School of Art, 2001 N. 13th Street, May 13 to July 11, 2014