Thursday, April 5, 2007

alex katz

A.K.:"My theory is that if you get the surfaces right, you get everything else right. I want style, the manner of painting, to be the dominant function. Style is part of the thing of elegance, the look that New York painting has. You find its epitome in Jackson Pollock. Big, not small or fussy. Pizazz. Count Basie seems like New York style, you know?"
Native New Yorker Alex Katz studied art in both Manhattan and Skowhegan, Maine. Like many American artists of his generation, he was inspired by the American Expressionists. He also worked, in the 1950s, in the dynamic manner of Jackson Pollock. Like Chuck Close, Katz created paintings based on photographs, but he also painted landscapes and figures from life. Katz later distinguished himself from his avant-garde contemporaries by focusing on purely representational art, rendering figures in vibrant planes of flat color. The artist was also adept at printmaking, and his work of the 1980s reflects the crisp nature of graphics. Red Coat, a portrait of the artist’s wife Ada, is like a collage in the way that the various shapes, saturated with color, fit together. Here, Katz has created a spellbinding image of a woman, dressed in a red coat and hat, who nonchalantly gazes out at the viewer.

Alex Katz is best known for his eye-catching, large-scale portraits, figures, and landscapes, but he has also painted intimate works, and makes small "sketches" using oil paint on Masonite board, for every large painting. Although Katz considers the large works to be his major productions, akin to a public performance "without a net," the small paintings are rehearsals that reveal not only how he works but more importantly why he is interested in a particular subject. Co-curated by the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, this exhibition of approximately eighty works focused on the achievement and significance of Katz's small paintings-the first American museum exhibition to do so.

No comments: