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collections > permanent collection > sculpture > LILA KATZEN
Lila Katzen
(American, 1929-1998)
Players, n.d.
Weathered Corten steel and aluminum, 72” x 36” x 68”
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earl M. Latterman (82.001)

In outdoor sculpture such as Combo and Players, Lila Katzen reacted against the dominant Minimalist aesthetic of the 1970s.  Viewing Minimalist sculpture as too inhuman, Katzen co-opted the Minimalists’ use of abstract forms and industrial materials in order to create works which were more accessible to viewers.  Contrasting to the inscrutable monumentality of much Minimalist work, Combo and Players are notable for their human scale and approachable horizontality.  At the same time, their curling forms and varied surfaces lend the sculptures an organic quality that belies the steel and aluminum from which they are made.  Similarly, the deliberately rusted finish of certain parts suggests natural processes of aging and transformation over time. For Katzen, such ideas served to bring her abstract work into the realm of human experience.

Katzen was born in Brooklyn and studied at the Art Students League of New York and the Cooper Union.  Trained as a painter, she turned to sculpture during the mid-1960s.  By the latter part of the decade, she was experimenting with a wide variety of materials and media, and gained particular attention for her work with light and plastic.  By 1969, she was working mainly in steel and other metal.  She reached the high point of her career during the 1970s, but continued to make sculpture actively until her death in 1998.