Postcard from London – Allison Katz Puts on the Soup at The approach

Matthew Rose's latest postcard comes from London, where he spent time in The approach gallery archives, looking at work by John Stezaker, and also appreciated what was on the gallery walls, paintings large and small by Alison Katz. – Artblog Editor

John Stezaker's work at The Approach.
John Stezaker’s work at The approach.

Visiting The approach’s archives for John Stezaker

In London for a week of art hopping and beer tasting, I found myself in one of my favorite galleries that combines both–The approach. This sleek contemporary space not only exhibits one of my favorite collage artists–John Stezaker–but also sits above a warm and friendly pub just off the Bethnal Green Tube station in East London.

Stezaker, who is nearing 70, is a British artist who for decades has been marrying black and white portraits to vintage postcards of crags, rivers, and odd geological formations. His composites are surreal allusions to the lives of the film noir loners, complicated lovers, and friends. Think Max Ernst gets high with Sigmund Freud. So with great delight I leafed through his current catalog and was shown a work from the archives. The artist is an icon in the London art world, so it was nice to see his handiwork up close.

On the walls, Allison Katz’s fables and fantasies

In the main gallery, Allison Katz’s We boil at different degrees proposes a different kind of puzzle, each punctuated with a tantalizing name–“Schrödinger’s Katz,” “Self-Elf,” “Broader than Broadway….” Roughly the size of a walk-up New York apartment, the exhibition space is the temporary home for a series truncated fables in the form of nine small and large paintings; these pieces open up like windows to Katz’s personal fantasies about childhood, loss, and wish fulfillment.

A painting by Alice Katz at The Approach.
Allison Katz, “Giant Cock,” 2016. Oil and rice on canvas, 230 x 200 cm (90 1/2″ x 78 5/8″). Image courtesy of The approach.

Each canvas describes a particular dream chapter, some with fruit bats, others feature a large rooster, an elf, and a fairy. The paintings themselves loom large but recede when taken all together; but each retains a particular notion and power of an event–or fragment of a narrative–and together, in a bit of a cookbook fashion, these works function to organize that poetic and emotional stream.

The largest canvases–“Giant” and “Giant Cock” (a story book rooster)–are mythic characters from the artist’s canon of fables. The piece “Fairy”–but a smidgen of paint of a Tinkerbell type creation no bigger than an iPad screen–punctuates the show with a knowing sense of scale and humor. To be sure, there’s a bit of David Salle in some of Katz’s layering but the painting is honest in its search for something that is no longer there; these images appear out of a fog of memory, warm but strange–a paradise lost, but found and oddly endearing.

And a pint for cool ruminations

It was a wonderful visit. And, I suppose, like so many visitors to The approach gallery, I soon found myself downstairs in the pub with a cool pint ruminating about the work above and the murmurings of the late afternoon crowd.


Allison Katz, We boil at different degrees is on view 18th September – 23rd October 2016 at The Approach, 47 Approach Road
, Bethnal Green, London E2 9LY.