Alex Katz American, b. 1927


“[Katz] has always had his own direction, which has not been the direction of mainstream art in any of the last seven decades. In a Katz painting, style—the way it’s painted—is the primary element. His confident, crisply articulated technique makes us see the world the way he sees it, clear and up close, with all but the most essential details pared away.”

– Calvin Tomkins

Alex Katz is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker. Born in Brooklyn, New York on July 24, 1927, he studied in New York and in Skowhegan, Maine between 1946 and 1950. In the early 1950s he was influenced by the work of Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists, and he produced swiftly executed pictures of trees and various works based on photographs.


In the mid 1950s, working from life, Katz painted spare, brightly coloured landscapes, interiors, and figures. Soon afterward he also produced simplified images in collage. These early works emphasized the flatness of the picture plane while remaining representational, and this insistence on figuration placed him outside the contemporary avant-garde mainstream, in which abstraction and chance were key qualities. Katz developed his style in the portrait works of ordinary people from the late 1950s, such as Ada with White Dress (1958). This resolution of the demands of formalism and representation looked forward to the Pop Art of the following decade.


In the 1960s, Katz’s works became more realistic and were executed in a smoother, more impersonal style, as in Frank and Sheyla Lima (1965). While concentrating on figures in interiors and in urban environments, Katz also painted a number of landscape and flower pieces such as White Petunia (1968). After experimenting with the technique in the late 1950s, from the mid 1960s he made a number of free-standing cut-out figure works painted on wood or aluminium, such as Rudy and Edwin (1968). Similarly, after early forays in the 1950s, Katz concentrated more on printmaking in the 1960s, making very simplified lithographs and screenprints, such as Row Boat (1966). After the 1960s he continued producing similar figure paintings, such as Night (1976), as well as prints. Katz achieved great public prominence in the 1980s, and among the works of that decade were a number of multi-panel paintings such as Pas de deux (1983).


Katz’s works are held in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Detroit Institute of Art, The Tate Gallery, The Brooklyn Museum, Museo Rufino Tamayo, The Guggenheim Bilbao, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum, The National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institute, as well as many private collections.

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