Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation

Overview

Alex Katz

(b. 1927)


Quick Reference

(1927– ).

Painter, printmaker, sculptor, and collage artist. A leader in the return to figuration in the early 1960s, he is known for very large, blandly unemotional, flattened images. In their smooth, simplified, and formal stylization, his works bear a tangential relationship to pop art. His subjects also include interiors, landscapes, and magnified flowers. Although many works picture individuals known to the artist, particularly his wife and son, generalized facial features foster an impersonal air. A lifelong New Yorker, in 1949 he graduated from Cooper Union, where Robert Gwathmey influenced his thinking. That summer Katz first visited Maine to study at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Since 1954 he has maintained a seasonal residence in Lincolnville, on Penobscot Bay. During the 1950s he painted abstract expressionist works that gradually incorporated representation as he also simplified his forms and brushwork. Between 1954 and 1960 he made collages, and in the late 1950s he first experimented with distinctive cut-outs, wood or metal silhouettes of painted figures. His personal style of representation coalesced in the early 1960s, contributing to the clean, literal aesthetic of the period as well as to the continuing taste for monumental painting among color field painters and others. Unlike photo-realist artists, he remains committed to visual perception as the basis of his work. Cropping, huge scale, and eye-catching, decorative pattern align his work with the distinctly contemporary styles of fashion advertising, mass media, and wide-screen movies. Active as a printmaker throughout his career, he has skillfully extended the imagery of his paintings into several media, including silkscreen, lithography, and woodcut.

Subjects: art.


Reference entries