Well-known for his bright, simplified portraits and landscapes, Alex Katz is a prominent American painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1927, Katz studied at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. At the beginning of his career in the 1950s, when Abstract Expressionism was at the peak of its critical acclaim, Katz’ representational paintings stood in sharp contrast to the abstract gestural work of his contemporaries. Although his early works showed the influence of Abstract Expressionism, Katz soon developed his own signature style.
In his paintings, Katz emphasizes light and color and embraces the flat surface of the canvas. Frequently working on a very large scale, he often depicts friends or family, using his wife Ada as a recurring model for such paintings as Ada with White Dress (1958), Blue Umbrella (1972), and Red Coat (1982). Katz also frequently paints the landscape near his summer house in Maine, creating monumental works intended to give the viewer the feeling of being enveloped by nature.
Despite early criticism from those who favored Abstract Expressionism, Katz is today widely recognized as a significant figure in post-war American art. Because he focused on representational painting and drew inspiration from film and billboard advertising to create his flat stylized works, he is considered to be a precursor of the Pop Art movement. He is also seen as an important influence in the work of a younger generation of artists, such as Elizabeth Peyton and Peter Doig, who led a resurgence of figurative painting in the 1980s and 1990s. He is the recipient of several awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy Museum, New York. His works are held in the collections of the Tate Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the National Gallery of Art among others.
Throughout his career, Katz has explored other media in addition to painting. He has created collages and sculptural cutout portraits and has been particularly prolific in the realm of printmaking. His screenprints, lithographs, etchings, and other prints often portray similar subjects as his paintings and are executed in the same smooth, simplified manner.
As an outgrowth of his extensive graphic work and his friendship with renowned New York School poets John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch, Katz’ work with books began in the 1960s and has continued to the present day. Books created in collaboration with Ashbery include Fragment (1969) and Coma Berenices (2005). Another example of Katz’ books is Interlocking Lives (1970), which features five stories written by Koch and 21 drawings by Katz arranged in a different order for each story. Katz has also collaborated with his son Vincent and the Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley and has worked with a number of distinguished printers, including the Arion Press and Aldo Crommelynck.
Books by Alex Katz available from Boreas Fine Art:
[ Katz, Alex ] Creeley, Robert. Thinking. Calais, VT: Z Press. 2000.
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