News & Events


September 8 – October 1, 2016
Marc Katano: New Paintings
at Stremmel Gallery

Saturday, July 4, 2014
Marc Katano’s ‘perfection’ is an unforeseeable ultimate
by KENNETH BAKER, San Francisco Chronicle art critic

Follow the arts long enough and moments of perfections occasionally present themselves. I experienced one when I saw Marc Katano’s “Rickshaw” (2014) in his show, “Angels’ Share” at Wirtz.

“Perfection” does not refer to a known benchmark of intensity, refinement or profundity, but to the attainment of an unforeseeable ultimate of some sort. All 10 of Katano’s works here in a similar idiom demonstrate a high level of confidence, skill and – it’s not a pejorative – taste. But nothing about the handsome ensemble predicts, let alone guarantees, the thundering success of “Rickshaw”.

That success is a matter of its being what it intends to be, to an extent beyond what we, and probably the artist himself, could imagine.

“Rickshaw” takes the form of an abstract drawing in acrylic on hid-thick Nepalese – undoubtedly handmade – paper.

Katano appears to have made a gestural pattern in pale gray and, having masked the paper’s edges, he covered it with a translucent wash of white to serve as ground for the topmost layer of thick, black strokes.

At nearly 7 x 5 ½ feet, the drawing has immensity, grandeur ever, without inflation.

Although anyone who knows Katano’s work will recognize his hand here, “Rickshaw” is free of self-advertisement.

Like other unforgettable works, it generated the sense of its having sprung whole into being by the magic of its make having taken himself – his ego, competitiveness and creative anxiety – out of the way.

Katano has practiced that magic, with dramatically varying effectiveness, for years, as the rest of the exhibition implies.

But “Rickshaw” presents a supreme example of improvisational composition. As in many of Katano’s pieces, its ricocheting marks form patterns suggestive of leaves and/or of Japanese calligraphy.

Viewers who know Richard Diebenkorn’s enigmatic toying with playing card suits will also think of it here.

But most impressive are the boldness and assurance of Katano’s graphic gestures. Just try to imagine mimicking them.

Finally, though, the gauge of this piece’s perfection is that it seems to need nothing in the way of interpretation or viewer assent. It has the fullness and surprise of a fragment of natural reality.

Marc Katano: "Still Water"
at Leslie Sacks Gallery

Art critic Clement Greenberg once said: “You like it, that's all, whether it's a landscape or abstract. You like it. lt hits you. You don't have to read it.” This radical and simply put statement vaguely resonates with reductionism, an approach in philosophy to understand the nature of complex things by reducing them to simpler or more fundamental ones. Thus, Greenberg and reductionism rernforce the idea that great things can often be found in the essence of something. Having said this, the works in Marc Katano's current solo show "Still Water" are about the act of mark-making. A though Katano's compositrons are sometimes organic in form — as when he creates upside-down hearts — they don't intend to emulate nature. Rather, they seem to write a statement about the artist's own state of mind at a certain moment in time, like Japanese calligraphy, which he was inspired by. Therefore, instead of trying to materiaiize a certain concept or idea, he starts out working from an intuitive place, where he just randomly applies paint on paper that's spread out on the floor. At this stage his concentration lies in the pure movements of his hands and arm. Sometimes he uses his bare hands and fingers to apply paint; at other times, he splatters it on the floor in a Jackson Pollock style. And then he creates whatever comes to his mind, such as the outlined shapes of triangles and upside-down hearts, that are like letters of the alphabet to him, which unearth themselves later. 

Born in Tokyo, Katano lives and works in the Bay Area; he moved to Sonoma in 2011. His new show is comprised of a total of f ive paintings, split up between the works he made on Nepalese paper, including Para Ti (2015), Taproot 12014), Tricky Times (2014) and Meeting (2015) and his work on Okawara paper, including Good Kid (2014). The difference between the two is that the works on Nepalese paper are not shielded with glass, as is the work on Okawara paper, which is much thinner and more fragile, and comes from Japan. The end result of Katano's art making is both elegant and powerful. Staying within a narrow range of colors-mostly black, white and beige-he achieves subtle textures and bold formal contrasts, which speak to us in their simplicity.

Saturday, May 5, 2012
Marc Katano: "Penumbra"
at Stephen Wirtz Gallery
by KENNETH BAKER, San Francisco Chronicle art critic

Marc Katano’s painting on paper at Wirtz keep odd company with Schiek’s bad boys, but many visitors will welcome their calming effect. Katano continues to draw invented leaf-and-branch forms at a scale dictated by the sheets of handmade paper on which he works.

The elegant plant drawings of Ellsworth Kelly may come to mind, but Katano and he have different priorities. Kelly prizes observation, beyond the discipline inherent in it, as a path to abstraction.

Drawing with a stalk of bamboo over fields he has splashed beforehand with muted earth tones, Katano repeatedly inquires to what extent a curve can expand or how many interruptions ink strokes can tolerate before they lose depictive meaning or linear tension.

Anyone who has ever struggled to draw anything ought to respond to Katano’s balancing acts and recognize that, their lyricism aside, they are their own reward.

10 BEST OF 2014
by KENNETH BAKER, San Francisco Chronicle art critic 

Yoga: The Art of Transformation 
The Asian Art Museum hosted this unprecedented synopsis through artifacts from ancient stone sculpture to video of the philosophy and practice of yoga.

Intimate Impressionism From the National Gallery of Art 
The Legion of Honor made a perfect setting for a show full of little revelations — who knew any remained? — of the art of figures we thought we knew too well.

Carleton Watkins: The Stanford Albums 
The Stanford University Libraries presented to the public for the first time at the Cantor Arts Center the full riches of albums they received decades ago in which the luckless but relentless Carleton Watkins recorded the prising open of the American West by alien forces both commercial and cultural.

Lines on the Horizon: Native American Art From the Weisel Family Collection 
The de Young Museum arrayed the high points of a magnificent gift from a Bay Area collector, finding precursors of modernist rigor in marvels of tribal arts’ design.

The Asian Art Museum’s collaboration with the shuttered San Francisco Museum of Modern Art produced a show long on provocation and eye candy, but full of memorable challenges to visitors.

Marc Katano
A happy coincidence had this California artist’s best ever paintings on paper make the Wirtz Gallery’s final outing look like a culmination of its long exhibition history.

Robert Frank in America 
Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center (through Jan. 5) exposed the editorial background of Frank’s classic “The Americans” as no exhibition or publication has done before.

At Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz 
Under house arrest in Beijing, the world’s most famous antiauthoritarian artist could not quite pull off engineering a successful ongoing show in America’s most famous prison, but the effort of all involved earned the event an indelible place in Bay Area art history. (Through April 26.)

Shoebox Orchestra 
A humbly entertaining group show, easily overlooked within a dreary but clamorous local art economy, this commemorative event reopened a souful, nonprofit mainstay of the Dogpatch neighborhood shuttered two years earlier by the death of its founder, Bruno Mauro.

The Plot Thickens 
Fraenkel Gallery’s 35th anniversary show (through Jan. 31) honors the gallery’s outstanding success, but crucially it also celebrates looking, not commerce, as the point of it all.