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Work Samples

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Ken Katzen Redlined assemblage
Assemblage in response to Redlining, the discriminatory housing practice, which has its roots in federal, state, and local law. The foreground is a drawing of a transparent man, captive, over the original federal loan map of Baltimore, with clockworks to symbolize the nature of the practice both systemic and ongoing. Unoccupied areas of the map show the original restrictive city ordinance and a typical restrictive housing covenant. Through rowhouse windows and doors, you can see recent and contemporary effects. Oil, charcoal, collage, found objects.

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Ken Katzen Redlined assemblage
View into windows and doors showing clock mechanism, flames, and the legacy of redlining, including a 1950 era ad for G.I Bill education and current maps of drug addiction. imprisonment, and unemployment. The worst areas of the maps almost exactly match the "deteriorating" and "undesirable" areas on the foreground 1935 federal Home Owners Loan Corporation map, on which redlining was based

Redlined Detail-Bottom Left.jpg

Detail assemblage Redlinined Ken Katzen
View into windows and doors showing clock mechanism, flames, and the legacy of redlining, including a 1950 era ad for V.A. housing and current maps of household income, and life expectancy. The worst areas of the maps almost exactly match the "deteriorating" and "undesirable" areas on the foreground 1935 federal Home Owners Loan Corporation map, on which redlining was based

Redlined Detail-Top Left.jpg

Ken Katzen Redlined assemblage
View into windows and doors showing clock mechanism and the legacy of redlining, including signs for bail bond and payday loans, a realtor's guide to restricting sales, and a current maps of dropout rates. The worst areas of the map almost exactly matches the "deteriorating" and "undesirable" areas on the foreground 1935 federal Home Owners Loan Corporation map, on which redlining was based


About Ken

Howard County

Ken Katzen's picture
I was born in Baltimore and began to draw seriously around the age of 14, when I became enamored by the calligraphy of Old English manuscripts. I moved on to studying  Japanese painting  in my teen years, then widened my work as an adult. Growing up, my father and grandfather taught me how to handle tools and materials, reflected now in assemblage. I have drawn, painted, and made things virtually my whole life, but I wanted more rigor. So I told my children that when they graduated from... more


Assemblage: objects, oil, charcoal, acrylic on canvas and wood, approx. 53"h x 38"w x 3"deep.

 The relationship of wealth, not to mention freedom, to whiteness is neither accidental nor individual. Governments at all levels, financial institutions, landlords, and real estate firms have created systems to maintain the disparity. 
Several cities enacted racially restrictive ordinances in the early 1900’s, led by Baltimore in 1910. 
Then, during the Depression, the federal government made maps of over 150 urban centers, coding the "financial security” of neighborhoods. The lowest-rated areas were in red, originating the term “redlining." But the map areas weren’t just based on financial experience. Race and ethnic origin were explicit factors.
Banks charged higher interest for loans and mortgages in redlined areas. While rates stayed high, even when overt housing discrimination became illegal, housing value fell, leaving marginalized people, primarily people of color, unable to move, improve their housing, or accumulate wealth, only one way to go: further into the red. 
Landlords who do not want to invest in deteriorating units, predatory lenders, hiring discrimination, neighborhood covenants, informal home sales agreements, and real estate and college admission policies that made even the G.I. Bill inaccessible to minorities have forced the relative wealth of people in redlined areas to decline. Renters and owners, underwater financially, are stuck. 
Even after 80 years, Baltimore city, the City Paper, and others have published maps of incarceration, failure to pass the MD High School Assessments, graduation rates, life expectancy, unemployment, and so forth. You can overlay them on the 1937 map of Baltimore and the worst areas almost exactly correspond to the red and yellow (“declining”) areas in the 1937 “Security” map.
The work features gears and clocks to symbolize the systems and their continuation. You will find maps and posters, along with sections of the original ordinances and covenants. In front, a man on his knees, hands behind his back, and in back, flames. 

Man in the Moon/Mask

Sculpture with objects: Epoxy resin, feathers, objects: 21"h x 12"w x 11"d. 2017. Inspired by a tribal mask of the Dan people and the man in the moon. If they had a child, it might look like this.


 Here's an old typewriter with lots of objects added to make it more interesting. And it is typing music. And it has brand-new epoxy resin wings. Lots to see here, so enjoy! , 11"h x 19"w x 15"d. 2017


Found object assemblages: matchboxes. objects, gold leaf, paper. This is an ongoing project, a gift for my son, who is also an artist. I produce one or two of these matchbox assemblages a year; there are currently 18 matchboxes. Sizes vary slightly; approx 1" x 2" x 1/2" each. They are named descriptively for the outside of the boxes, but that is a convenience since there are so many of them. The insides form their own compositions.

Valentine Book

Book of collages in sequence. 7"h x 9"w x 1"d. Handmade book, collage, stamped letters, objects.  This book was a gift for my wife. 

Moishe Polinski Dreams of Children

Assemblage: Oil on wood, wire, objects. 14"h x 20"w x 6"d. As if the Holocaust weren't bad enough, I envisioned a connection between the prisoner and his dream of children, which turned out to be another nightmare, that of child soldiers in our time. Doing the research was heartbreaking.

  • Moishe as displayed

    The assemblage includes the slat hanging to the left. The background and the child soldiers are painted (oil) on the box and slats.
  • Moishe Detail

    Detail of assemblage, showing boxcars (It was hard to find these models of German boxcars c. 1939. I repainted them to make them appear to have been used.) Also shown: handmade barbed wire and various objects. The slats were originally the bottom of the box, a plant tray. I moved them to create the feel of imprisonment.
  • Detail: Roots & Wings

    Roots grow into the box from the top. The (real) butterfly in the background actually protrudes past the top of the box.
  • Moishe: Detail

    Oil on wood painting of child soldier. I painted the child soldiers relatively thinly to keep the wood grain and keep them from jumping out of the slats.
  • Moishe: Background Detail

    Here's part of the oil on masonite background painting of Auschwitz prisoners.


Assemblage: oil on wood, gold leaf, thread, objects. 13"h x 10"w x 4"d. This started off as a composition based on the old cigar press. By the time I was finished, the spheres, gears, and incised blue lines and circles seemed to refer to something cosmological, maybe from time before modern cosmology.

  • Balance

    Overview. Objects and string on painted and gilded cigar press. I really like the visual balance between the plumb bob and the orchid, and the flower and background with all that hard stuff.
  • Balance: Detail

    Closeup of hand-tied spider web, of metallic gold thread.


Assemblage: Oil on wood, acrylic, photographs, objects. 20"h x 16"w x 2"d.
This assemblage a narrative, but it is open, so you can have your own story or questions.

  • Wh...? Overview.

    The background is an oil painting of a woman over a collaged scan of a (real) butterfly, itself painted over, and collaged photos. There are closeups of some of the objects in the detail photos.
  • Wh...? Detail: Pendant and photos

    You are looking at the pendant in the left space and vintage photos. I selected these to give a feeling of backstory without enough details to define the story.
  • Wh...? Detail: Text

    You are looking at text transferred to multiple layers of acrylic medium, and assembled butterfly wings.


"Ukraine" Oil on Canvas, 2022
This painting was inspired by a French news photo (from the previous Russian incursion) that just wouldn't let me go. Painting it gave me the opportunity make changes in the soldier's position and emphasize the yellow and blue in the background, portraying the biblical and contemporary references it stirred so strongly in me.