Mel Katz: Drawings and Small Sculptures

May 9 – July 19, 2015

Study Gallery

This exhibition supplements the fifty-year retrospective exhibition
Mel Katz: On and Off the Wall, June 6 - August 23, 2015

Mel Katz is a highly regarded Portland sculptor and teacher whose work is firmly rooted in the principles of geometric abstraction. Born in Brooklyn in 1932, Katz graduated from the Cooper Union Art School in New York in 1953 and attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School in 1954−55. He moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1964 to accept a teaching position at the Portland Art Museum School, and in 1966 replaced the late Robert Colescott at Portland State University, where Katz taught for the next thirty-two years and enjoyed a highly successful career as an art educator.

Drawing has always been an important part of Katz’s working process. Although he has said that he used to make drawings in the 1950s and 1960s as finished or completed works, his drawings from the past four decades have been created with the purpose of thinking and planning for his large scale wall and freestanding sculpture. Indeed, each sculpture that Katz has made since the early 1970s is accompanied by at least one large drawing—usually 8 feet in height and drawn with charcoal on white butcher paper—that he uses to work out some of the complex visual problems and challenges he deals with in his sculptures.

Similarly, Katz often makes small sculptures or maquettes of his large painted aluminum sculptures. A maquette (the French word for scale model, sometimes referred to by the Italian names plastico or modello) is a small-scale rough draft of an anticipated sculpture. These smaller versions of Katz’s larger sculptures and commissioned works allow the artist to explore ideas, concepts, color combinations, and visual relationships for new work with less time and expense. Once satisfied, he can move on to the creation and fabrication of his larger works.

Mel Katz: Drawings and Small Sculptures has been organized to introduce visitors to Katz’s working process and is intended to supplement a fifty-year retrospective exhibition for the artist scheduled for the Hallie Ford Museum of Art from June 6 to August 23, 2015.

Companion Exhibition


Mel Katz: On and Off the Wall
June 6 - August 23, 2015
The Melvin Henderson-Rubio Gallery

This major retrospective exhibition of Portland sculptor Mel Katz (American, b. 1932) chronicles the career of this prolific and dynamic artist who played a prominent role in the Portland art scene for over 50 years. The exhibition features Katz’s large scale abstract geometric sculptures drawn from public and private collections throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as a number of works from the artist’s studio.

Within a year of his arrival in Portland in 1964 Katz was making his first shaped paintings with lacquer-sprayed surfaces. By the early 1970s his work began to echo his father’s work as a tailor in the garment trade. Drawing from his father’s pattern making, tracing, and cutting, Katz created shaped, mixed-media works that were a radical departure from traditional sculptural practices of the day and set the stage for the development of his mature work over the next four decades.

Exhibition Related Events

Lecture by Mel Katz
Friday, June 5, 2015 at 5 p.m.
Please note that we have a new location for the lecture
Paulus Lecture Hall
Willamette University College of Law
245 Winter St. SE
Campus map: building #11
Free and open to the public

Exhibition Opening Reception
Friday, June 5, 2015 at 6 p.m.
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
RSVP (acceptances only): or call 503-370-6855

Gallery Talk with Mel Katz
Saturday, June 27 at 12:30 p.m.
Join Mel Katz at the museum for a guided tour of the exhibition.
Free and open to the public

Tuesday Gallery Talks
Join docents at the museum for a guided tour of the exhibition. Tours commence at 12:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public

June 9: The tour will be led by Gary Brown

July 14: The tour will be led by Molly Fitzsimmons

August 11: The tour will be led by Sue Dauer

Exhibition Related Publication


Mel Katz: On and Off the Wall
By Barry Johnson
© 2015
ISBN 9781930957725
8.5 x 11 in. and 128 pages in length.
There are 104 color and black/white illustrations
Price: $29.95
Available in the Hallie Ford Museum of Art store or by calling 503-370-6855
| More information |

Financial support for this exhibition has been provided by a major grant from The Ford Family Foundation. Additional support was provided by a gift from Dianne C. Anderson, by funds from the Maribeth Collins Art Exhibition Fund, and by general operating support grants from the City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax funds and the Oregon Arts Commission.


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