Joel Katz FAAR’03 collaborates with poet Randall Couch in Philadelphia ROMAAmor digital collage show

katz3aTwo Feet: Rome

“Before Joel Katz left for Rome in 2002,” writes Ann de Forest in the guide to a remarkable new photographic exhibition at Philadelphia’s Gershman Y Galleries, “he expressed his disappointment that the Vatican had eliminated a position he had always longed for—advocatus diaboli or Devil’s Advocate…[w]hen he arrived, however, Joel found that Rome didn’t need one more skeptic. The city itself is one big argument, a lively, contentious conversation between the past and present, between believers and scoffers, between the enduring and the ephemeral.”

katz2Wall Wrap: Trevi Fountain and Prati, Rome

And that acutely sums up some of the main themes of Joel Katz’s digital assemblages and collages in the show ROMAAmor, on view until 1 February on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. “Rather than take sides,” de Forest notes of Katz’s images of Italy, “Joel chooses to show the clashes and contradictions and let them speak for themselves.”

Says Katz in his artist’s statement, “I began assembling images digitally in 2002, when I was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, where all the photographs, assemblages, and collages in this show began….Going back to Rome every year since then, most recently for three months, have added to my collection of images, in dealing with which I am way behind.”

katzportraitJoel Katz FAAR’03 at the 11 December ROMAAmor opening

Joel Katz has been a photographer since 1964, when he spent six weeks in Mississippi during “Freedom Summer”. He is the principal of Joel Katz Design Associates, an information and wayfinding design office in Philadelphia. Katz also teaches at Philadelphia University and the University of the Arts. He is also a Vice-President on the Council of the Society of Fellows, and Associate Editor of the SOF News, which he designs. [I’ve seen the great new issue, to be mailed right around the New Year!—Ed.]

Poet Randall Couch contributed the texts inscribed above, below, alongside, and into Katz’ images in this show. “We envision ROMAAmor, when complete, as a collaborative artists’ book or portfolio of perhaps forty pieces,” explains Couch. “Out of thousands of photographs, often already juxtaposed in pairs by Joel, I look for images that arrest my attention and suggest both a formal and thematic approach for a text.”


Knockoff: Trevi Fountain, Rome; Piccolomini Library, Siena

That is just a start…

Even after the digital assemblage, its poem and its typography in the collage all come together, Couch and Katz “meet to discuss, evaluate, and experiment so that each piece evolves through several drafts.” Couch continues: “While they vary widely in tone, intellectual thrust and emotional color, the completed works—if we are successful—are not quickly exhausted, but reveal new correspondences with each repeated encounter.”


ROMAAmor—a collaboration with poems by Randall Couch and images by Joel Katz FAAR’03—can be seen at the The Open Lens Gallery in the Gershman Y (401 S Broad Street, Philadelphia) until 1 February 2009. Gallery hours: Sunday-Friday 9 AM-5 PM; closed Saturday. For more information, contact Gershman Y Galleries Curator Miriam Seidel at or 215.446.3001.

katzgroupROMAAmor opening (11 December 2008), one hour after the event


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