Alex Katz U.S.A., b. 1928

Overview

"I like to make an image that is so simple you can't avoid it, and so complicated you can't figure it out" - Alex Katz

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.

In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, Katz began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces. In 1965, he also embarked on a prolific career in printmaking. Katz would go on to produce many editions in lithography, etching, silkscreen, woodcut and linoleum cut. After 1964, Katz increasingly portrayed groups of figures. He would continue painting these complex groups into the 1970s, portraying the social world of painters, poets, critics, and other colleagues that surrounded him. He began designing sets and costumes for choreographer Paul Taylor in the early 1960s, and he has painted many images of dancers throughout the years.

Beginning in 2010, Katz re-framed his subject matter, employing more drastic cropping of individual portraits. He also began composing multiple portraits using tightly cropped images of the same subject sequenced across the linen. Since 2015, Katz has frequently begun his process by taking photographs with his iPhone, which he then prints out, cuts, and collages into compositions. From these maquettes, he may make painted studies or go straight to making a large-scale cartoon, from which he paints an oil on linen. During an extended stay in Pennslyvania from spring through early summer of 2020, Katz made more than 50 paintings, mainly of flowers and landscapes he saw around him.

Alex Katz's work has been the subject of more than 250 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions internationally since 1951. These exhibitions include: the Whitney Museum of American Art (1986); Brooklyn Museum of Art (1988); Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden (1995), Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia (1996); P.S. 1/Institute for Contemporary Art, New York (1997-1998); the Saatchi Gallery, London (1998); Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn (2002); The Jewish Museum, New York (2006); National Portrait Gallery, London ( 2010); the Albertina, Vienna (2010); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2012); Tate St. Ives (2012), Guggenheim Bilbao (2015), Serpentine Gallery, London (2016), The Cleveland Museum of Art (2017), Lotte Museum of Art, Seoul (2018), Tate Liverpool (2018), Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2018), Musee de L'Orangerie, Paris (2019), Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2019)  Fosun Foundation, Shanghai (2020), Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (2022) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2022).
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