Alex Katz (American, b. 1927)
Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. In 1928, at the outset of the Depression, his family moved to St. Albans, a diverse suburb of Queens that had sprung up between the two world wars. Katz was raised by his Russian émigré parents, both of whom were interested in poetry and the arts, his mother having been an actress in Yiddish Theater. Katz attended Woodrow Wilson High School for its unique program that allowed him to devote his mornings to academics and his afternoons to the arts. In 1946, Katz entered The Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan.
Katz’s style is that of the vernacular. He uses subjects and colors close to himself, ones that almost everyone looking at his work can immediately connect with. He uses bright, flat colors, to further stylize his subjects. He said himself that he likes to paint fast because the surface gets so smooth.
The New York based painter and printmaker, specializing in boldly simplified portraits and landscapes. Though influenced by American Scene artists as well as diverse elements of European and American modernism, he has avoided affiliation with any group or movement. To a great degree, Katz's distinction lies in the fascinating dialogue he developed between realism and more abstract tendencies in modernism. His heroically scaled landscapes and figural compositions recall Monet's late Water Lilies, Abstract Expressionist compositions, and roadside billboards. Rendered in bold and flat colors with sparing detail, his canvases create a double affirmation of the motif and the painted surface. His technique owes much to the crisp manner of commercial art and illustration, and this feature, along with his uncomplicated display of contemporary subjects, dovetails into Pop art. Much in the way Andy Warhol turned a Campbell's soup can into an instantly recognizable symbol, Katz transformed his circle of family and friends into visually arresting icons. His repeated return to subjects for which he has a fondness, such as his wife, pool-side bathers, and the quiet Maine landscape, encourages reception of his work as a blithesome celebration of the everyday in middle-class America.
Alex Katz's work has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions internationally since 1951. In autumn 2017, Alex Katz created solo exhibitions for Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London and Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Salzburg. All composed of new work, the three exhibitions included approximately fifty large scale and environmental paintings completed in 2016 -2017. In June 2016, Alex Katz: Quick Light, featuring both landscape and portrait paintings was shown at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London. Brand New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s, organized by Colby College Museum of Art in 2015, traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2017 and featured sixty-five paintings, cut outs and collages from the seminal decade of the artist’s development. In 2015 the Tate Gallery, London presented ARTIST ROOMS: Alex Katz, showcasing thirty small paintings acquired jointly by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Tate. This is Now, an exhibit of large scale environmental landscape painting spanning more than 3 decades, was organized by the High Museum in Atlanta in 2015 and was shown at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilboa, in 2015-16.