Artery was the first institutional solo exhibition in London by Allison Katz.
Comprising over 20 paintings, most made over the last 18 months, as well as hand-painted ceramics and a new group of posters, it explored Katz’s long-standing relationship to questions of identity and expression, selfhood and voice; themes she has addressed in her work for more than a decade.
Attending to the idiosyncratic and eccentric, to personal mythologies and embodied experience, Katz treats her own biography as source material, as well as drawing from dream objects, art historical references, and the texture of everyday life. Her exhibition unfolded through a series of biographical anecdotes and moments of synchronicity, opening the world up to a game of allusions, double entendre, slips and wordplay.
In Katz’s work, the viewer is compelled to seek out connecting lines running through the apparently disparate subject matter; associations, and conversations that must be imagined and elaborated in order to complete the circuit. The world the artist seeks to give form to is one where chance gives access to poetic order inside life’s apparent chaos; where one’s own subjectivity and experience collides with the universality of the world, to be read as a route into that which cannot be seen. A painting of an elevator was installed on the other side of the building’s real lift-shaft, a trompe-l’oeil aperture into a hidden space; a painting of a cock crossing the road literally crosses two freestanding walls; a crowd of open mouths stare outwards, an allusion perhaps to painting from the position of language, or the gut; while a series of still- life ‘portraits’ of humble cabbages – an ongoing series since 2013 – are displayed as a group together here for the first time, their ‘head’ and ‘heart’ and ‘arteries’ analogous to the features of the shadowy, absent sitter.
Elsewhere Katz’s exploration of the artist’s ‘signature’ touch is playfully re-evaluated through self-portraits both literal and metaphysical. Shifting combinations of her own name are threaded throughout her work as a slogan (‘All ls On’), an alias (‘AKA’) and a ‘MASK’ (Ms. Allison Sarah Katz); and the sense of touch (and its prohibition) is heightened by her use of applied textures such as sand, rice, and iridescent pigments including copper and crushed steel. For Katz, surface is depth. The posters in the Central Space announce the exhibition and its duration, presenting it in its temporal totality as another kind of object or event. Posters are an important and long- standing part of the artist’s practice. For Katz, to make art is to become an artery. The title of the exhibition refers to the arteries of the body, which circulate through the heart, as well as alluding to roads, rivers, systems of transportation and more tangential networks of communication, meaning, and connection, as well as our inner drives and psyches. The architecture and choreography of the exhibition design itself is an integral part of her work. Staged encounters, bespoke walls, inner rooms and long views: all are central to the experience and meaning that Katz builds across the discrete and varied works in the show.
Artery extended to a satellite exhibition at Canada House, London, from 24 January – 8 April 2022. Artery was a collaboration with Nottingham Contemporary where an earlier iteration of the exhibition was presented from 22 May – 31 October, 2021.