For the Winter-Spring 2017 edition of ‘As You Change, So Do I’, artist Polly Apfelbaum will produce ‘Any Dream Will Do’, a series of new poster-works exclusively for Luton town centre.
Typical of the artist’s concern for a balance between the two mediums of painting and installation, this project has a profound engagement with colour and drawing in the public realm. The shapes in Apfelbaum’s new works, which have recently included hand-drawn alphabets and rudimentary pictures of animals, are influenced in part by Montessori education, a ‘phrenasthenic’ approach to teaching that is characterised by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. This method contains strong evidence that children who start taking handwritten notes in school develop better overall communicative skills later in life.
At a time when handwriting is dying out, due to the influence of handheld digital devices and computers, these painted emblems aim to address the wider context of art education for local audiences, and connect in an intimate way to ‘As You Change, So Do I’s ongoing theme of the potential of graphic signs in public art.
Initially, a large billboard poster will be positioned outside of Luton’s central railway station from 9 December 2016 to 6 January 2017, while three other smaller works – ‘Pataphysical Dog’, ‘A is for Animals’ and ‘Celtic Animal Zodiac’ – will be produced in an unlimited edition to be taken away and reposted around Luton by visitors to the town’s new cultural district. In addition, a limited print, in the form of a tea-towel calendar for 2017 titled ‘Pink Giraffe’, will be made for the project in collaboration with Luton’s Guildford Street Press.
If popular cultural themes are referenced through the project’s title, such as the classic theatre production ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ (1968) and the British television programme ‘Any Dream Will Do’ (2007), in many respects the slogan also contains a distinctly political element. If in 2016, we have seen tectonic political shifts in the UK and US towards extreme governing principles, then Apfelbaum’s work refers to a complex situation in which the statement ‘Any Dream Will Do’ mirrors international working-class communities’ desire for a politics that wished for ‘anything other than what we have now’.
If the wishes that led to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have produced a worrying move to the right, then Apfelbaum presents a child-like reflection on joy and radical disinterest as a way of circumventing dangerous obsessions with tribalism, nationalism and reified utopias.
In this respect, ‘Any Dream Will Do’ aims to engage Luton’s diverse communities and families in positive futures and outward-looking forms of reverie involving colour, linear drawing and handwriting, as well as the concept of clear communication as a political act in its own right. In essence, the symbol of the giraffe, which appears in many of these new works, represents the messenger, who attempts to sturdy his or her feet in life’s rocky terrain.
About Polly Apfelbaum
Polly Apfelbaum was born in Abington, Pennsylvania in 1955 and has lived and worked in New York City since 1978. She came to prominence in the 1990s and is best known for what the artist refers to as her ‘fallen paintings’, large-scale installations that consist of hundreds of hand-cut and hand-dyed pieces of velvet fabric arranged on the floor. These installations exist as a hybrid between painting and sculpture and occupy an ambiguous space between the two genres. She is represented by Frith Street Gallery, London.