Allison Katz

Westward Ho!

4 November 2023 – 20 January 2024

West Hollywood

‘Westward Ho!’ is the gallery’s first solo exhibition with Allison Katz, whose critically admired work addresses the ways in which aesthetic practices link and absorb autobiography, art history, information systems and commodity culture. Katz’s paintings are informed – and united – by her relentless curiosity about the ways in which images perform and construct meaning.

In ‘Westward Ho!’ Katz creates a cosmos by overlapping disparate images and narratives from visual culture, her own past, and the coincidences that gather around her. The title firmly locates us, with tongue-in-cheek undertones, inside the gallery in West Hollywood (WeHo), California. It was Katz’s specific request to exhibit here, in a desire to engage with its associated cultural mythologies: ‘Hollywood is a big picture and I should like to know what it means to walk the walk, or drive the drive, of the Pacific coast, with its last–resort, up to the edge, atomized light…if this is the birthplace of the silver screen, then it’s a chance to test out painting’s irrefutable material and impure surface, its porous consciousness…’

‘‘Westward Ho!’ speaks of yearning, of a call – for a response, for a lift… an invitation to ride somewhere, to be held for a moment in a frame gliding along the surface, evidence of life, as above so below…’—Allison Katz

Within her own poetic logic, real or imagined elements from these different sites converge, along with motifs from past works, tied together by what Katz identifies as the ‘invisible threads between places and images.’ In the painting ‘Sheepish’ (2023), California and Somerset dramatically collide as a hole in a wall takes the shape of Somerset’s borders. A lamb steps through the opening and offers the visitor an obscured view of the famous Hollywood sign which appears from that angle to spell out WOOL.

Throughout the exhibition Katz deploys a constantly evolving set of techniques and source materials. Echoes, rhymes and serendipities erupt; meaning is reordered and unexpected genealogies converge. ‘West’ is the neighborhood in which the gallery is located, the direction Katz’s apartment faces in London, a catch-all term for a geopolitical system in the midst of being challenged, and an alias for the pastoral patch of English countryside where she worked in residence (the West Country). While preparing for the exhibition she also visited the ruins of Pompeii, where the discovery of wall paintings buried under ash continues to play a central role in the origin story of Western figuration.

As part of an ongoing practice of altering exhibition architecture, Katz has made a number of interventions in the gallery. Depictions of frames, such as skylights, balconies and windows, quote features of the building, and hang on constructed walls which open up or obscure existing lines of sight. Katz sees such frames as inevitably referring back to the act of looking, and to painting itself. ‘The Balcony’ (2023) is a painted version of the now-defunct appendage above the entrance to the West Hollywood gallery. In ‘Eternity’ (2023), two men look down into a room through an open skylight, their heads framed by a zone of brilliant blue.

The triptych ‘Responding’ (2023) embodies Katz’s interest in perspectives and drives, and the potential boundlessness of painting. ‘Responding’ depicts the ‘primordial pond’ outside the studio in Somerset, where the artist observed hundreds of tadpoles evolving, literally growing legs in order to walk out of the water. Katz’s connection with the pond, witnessing ‘all the myriad forms of life teeming with change’ provoked the painting’s all-over surface and the idea of the mutating frame. Mud is conflated with cloud, water with reflection, the amorphous with the animal.


Acrylic on canvas
3 parts, each: 300 x 130 x 3.6 cm / 118 1/8 x 51 1/8 x 1 3/8 in

Roads and walking are active metaphors in Katz’s oeuvre, providing pathways to a particular viewpoint, representing the perpetual transit of process and thought, and operating as sites of connection. Literally drawing perspective into space, the artist’s road paintings illustrate ‘the confluence of being rooted in one place while thinking of another (and another).’ In ‘Truth’ (2023), the artist’s grandmother Ruth gazes at Giacometti’s sculpture ‘Walking Man’ (1960). Like the road, the pond, and the skylight, ‘Walking Man’ evokes an existential need for motion. The presence of sculpture in the painting is not just simulated. Acrylic modelling paste is used to literally sculpt the textured surface of the Giacometti work, disrupting the photorealism of the rest of the painting.

Another walking figure appears in ‘Catwalk’ (2023), this one of a woman traversing the canvas with the initials ‘AK’ emblazoned on the background. Katz uses her own initials and signature as recurring themes, a way of exploring language as image and the surrogate role of lettering. In these works, she teases the many competing forces within a single frame, presenting painting as a conglomerate of realism, existentialism, ornamentation, psychoanalysis and portraiture.

In ‘Ho!’ (2023), Katz pays tribute to Georges Seurat’s ‘Bathers at Asnière’ (1884), which includes what she has described as ‘surely the most famous ‘ho!’ (hollering) in all of art history.’ Her version of the well-known 19th-century painting zooms in on the boy positioned bottom right of the original painting’s frame, standing in the pond calling outwards, beyond the artwork’s boundaries. Connecting the work to the exhibition’s larger impetus, Katz states, ‘To loosely gather all into this title, ‘Westward Ho!’ speaks of yearning, of a call – for a response, for a lift… an invitation to ride somewhere, to be held for a moment in a frame gliding along the surface, evidence of life, as above so below…’

Allison Katz: In the Studio

During her time as artist-in-residence in Somerset, Allison Katz sat down to talk about how surface materiality, wordplay and humor combine in her work.

On view in West Hollywood

‘Allison Katz. Westward Ho!’ is on view now through 5 January 2024 at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood. Please visit our location page to plan your visit.

About the Artist

Allison Katz

For over a decade, Katz has investigated the ways in which aesthetic practices link and absorb autobiography, commodity culture, information systems and art history. Her diverse imagery, including cocks, cabbages, mouths, fairies, elevators, noses, waterways, and variations on her own name, appear as recurring symbols and icons which build an...

Inquire about other works available by Allison Katz

Related Content

Current Exhibitions