Paul Katz (b. 1942)
The Shelf Life of Stones, 2017
Mixed media, 16 x 13 x 2.5 inches
Courtesy of the Artist
The Mind’s Eye: Paintings, Sculpture, and Books by Paul Katz
February 1 through May 27
Featured in the Regional Artists Gallery through May 27 is The Mind’s Eye: Paintings, Sculpture, and Books by Paul Katz. This exhibition features a variety of works, including paintings, sculpture and drawing books, mainly from Katz’s Prelude and Interlock series. The Preludes includes paintings and everyday found objects with words painted on them as if on intertwined ribbons. The words are all taken from William Wordsworth’s poem “Prelude.” The look of the work was inspired in part by a photograph Katz saw in The New York Times™ in the days following 9/11. The image was of an office in which everything was covered by grey ash so that ordinary things like desks and computers took on the aspect of an ancient site exhumed. “As I have worked on my “Prelude” project, I have come increasingly able to see it as something as nearly post-apocalyptic as that photograph but with culture, itself, in the form of poetry settling like ash over everything. The dense patterns of lines and letters that cover all my surfaces make the actual poem impossible to read but I feel that I honor it, nevertheless, through an act of penitential diligence,” stated the artist.
A work of art can seem like a crime without an apparent motive.
I like clarity of means but I accept and even desire a certain ambiguity in the finished work. It is here where the viewer must enter and continue the process through an act of perception. Successful works of art keep us guessing however hard we try to nail them down. That is why they stay alive.
My work is not representational. That is it does not re-present things seen in the world though it sometimes transforms actual objects like bottles and books into sculpture. I usually see the art work first in my mind in a general way and then I let it evolve as I make it. The mark of the hand and the thousand little decisions involved in the making will give to the work its particular identity. Drawing is the way that I think out loud and I draw a lot- usually two to three hours a day. Most of the drawings are contained in books.
Though my art does not mirror the world yet the world is always with me. How could it be otherwise. I walk in the woods, I meet people, I read books, I watch the news, I go to museums, I live in the world. All of my experiences must find expression in what I do. I am not unique in that way. Human creatures make human things in the same way that bees make bee hives and termites make termite mounds.
I sometimes liken what I do to the fate of Sisyphus who was tasked by the Gods to push a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down again. Albert Camus wrote an essay about poor Sisyphus which ended with him imagining Sisyphus to be happy. That is what art making is for me; an absurd affair where finishing one thing only means starting all over again. And yet there is distinct pleasure in making things and real satisfaction in the daily rhythm of work. As Sisyphus nears the top of his hill he can’t help but feel, at least for the moment, that he has accomplished something.