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RL STETSON          

                                                                                                                                  BERT KATZ (1934-2012) 

October 6 - 28, 2018

ABOUT BERT KATZ: Rhode Island Debut

Born and raised in New York City, Bert Katz trained at Alfred University under Harold Altman, and Providence-native and RISD-graduate Clara Nelson; and, at Hunter College under Robert Motherwell. Traveling to France in 1955, Katz had an extraordinary chance encounter with Pablo Picasso in Vallauris. Katzís photographs of that meeting are at the Musee Picasso Paris. In 1958, Katz returned to France on the Queen Mary with his wife, the playwright Leah Napolin (1935-2018) where they lived for a year while Katz completed his masterís thesis on Daumier. Upon his return to New York, Katz had his first one-man shows at the Workshop Gallery and The Weintraub Gallery. In a teaching career that spanned over 50 years, Katz taught at The Ohio State University, where his 1973 Symposium on the Visual and Performing Arts brought together notable artists Robert Wilson, Robert Smithson, Otto Meuhl, Peter Blake, Viola Farber; and, art critics Lucy Lippard and Harold Rosenberg; Parsons School of Design; and, the Gallatin Division of New York University, where his course, Drawing and Painting, was a staple in the curriculum for more than two decades. Throughout his career, Katz had numerous solo exhibitions and took part in important group shows at galleries and museums including the Dayton Art Institute Museum, Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, J.B. Speed Museum in Louisville, and Akron Art Institute.  

Starting in the 1960s, Katzís interest in abstract surrealism led him to produce 12 large-scale paintings using a small airbrush and latex-based house paint mixed with water. With titles like Big Biological Babe; Halt! Nicht Anruhren; and Green Androgyny in Yellow-Land, Katz juxtaposed provocative biomorphic forms with geometric shapes on lush, flat planes of color. As the next decade approached, Katzís work took on a more draughtsman-like approach with his Trance Drawings. Using a rapidograph pen, Katz tapped into his unconscious mind to produce unpremeditated biomorphs to which he added airy geometric renderings. In the 1990s, Katz produced The Container Series and the Alexameta Series, gouache paintings in highly saturated colors. Katzís work for this show was curated by the Deblois Gallery and Nancy Whipple Grinnell, Curator Emerita of the Newport Art Museum. 


RL STETSON: Artist Statement

My artist statement is very simple: create whimsical art that produces smiles, that makes the viewer chuckle and possibly, for a few seconds, makes the world go away. My art itself is very simple.  Carved and shaped wooden sculptures with found / repurposed items attached to the wood as focal points. 

I never start a project with a specific subject in mind, such as a dog or a cat, as all my sculptures have started with one found object which speaks to me and tells me what it wants to be.  This one object will drive the entire project.  The trick to putting a sculpture together is finding other objects that will be compatible, will have a similar rust pattern or patina and will complement the focal object.  This type of art has three separate but equal parts; the hunt for the objects I use as focal points (flea market twice per month), the engineering of found focal points to sculptured wood, and the execution.

In the sculpture pictured above the cat began with an electric drill that was given to me by my father as a 14th birthday present.  Two days before this drill turned 50 it failed and died in my hands.  To honor its service I took the drill apart and when I got to the interior motor housing I found I was looking at the head of a cat.  I cut some of the motor housing off, grinded other sections down and then built the body of the cat around it (using my own cat, Puck, as the model).  The ears were shaped from the drill's exterior housing and the butt (not seen in photo) from the exterior housing also.  The base of the tail is the actual rotor of the drill.  I added compression springs above the cat's feet to enhance the illusion of lift.  The body and tail are carved from reclaimed wood.

Since I made this cat sculpture every single person who has seen it has broken into a big smile or grin, there is excitement in their eyes and voices as they comment on it and I receive my payoff for it is the smiles that I am after.

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Sausage Dog

War Dog

The Container Series
Mama Was a Squeezebox