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Alex Katz

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Alex Katz (b. 1927) is an important American figurative artist associated with the Pop Art movement. Primarily known for his paintings and prints, Katz utilizes bold simplicity, heightened color, and economy of line to create stylized portraits and landscapes that are defined by their hard-edge and flatness of form. By the mid-1960s, Katz began what would be a prolific career in printmaking, producing more than 400 editions of lithographs, etchings, silkscreens, woodcuts, and linoleum cuts.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Katz studied at The Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan, where he received his BA in 1949. Katz is a long-term resident of Manhattan, and has summered in Lincolnville, Maine since the 1950s.

From 1955 to 1959, Katz made small collages of figures in landscapes from hand-colored strips of delicately cut paper. In the late 1950s, he moved towards greater realism in his paintings and began exploring portraiture and monochromatic elements. In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, Katz began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces.

In 1957, Katz met his future wife after Ada, and after marrying her in 1958, the artist redirected his attention to portraiture. Ada became his most prolific subject as Katz completed over two hundred portraits of his partner throughout the years. After 1964, Katz increasingly portrayed groups of figures. He would continue painting these complex groups into the 1970s. In the 1980s, Katz took on fashion imagery before focusing his attention on large landscape paintings in the late 1980s and 1990s. At the turn of the century, Katz returned to his interest in painting flowers.

Though the artist marked his beginnings in printmaking while still a student at Cooper Union, he went almost a decade focusing his creative energy on other pursuits. In 1965, the artist returned to printmaking with screenprints composed of large swaths of flat color.

Katz’ prints are often based on his paintings. Each print offers Katz an opportunity to rework an image without the hit-or-miss stakes of painting. Using the multiplicity of prints, Katz is able to reimagine details of his painted works, altering color, scale and detail. Katz was further attracted to the idea that prints could serve as “surrogate paintings,” as he refers to them, rather than ordinary duplications of his painted works. Indeed, rather than being simple remakes, the prints he makes of his paintings count as genuine artistic endeavors of their own right, which makes them both offshoots of his original artistic execution and works of their own. In this way, Katz’ prints are simultaneously reductions and extensions of his canvases.

Katz’s work has been included in solo and group exhibitions worldwide at the Daegu Art Museum (2019), Ludwig Museum (2019), Lotte Museum of Art, Seoul (2018), Leopold Museum (2018), Tampa Museum of Art (2017), Cleveland Museum of Art (2017), Guggenheim Bilbao (2015), Metropolitan Museum of Art (2015), High Museum of Art (2015), National Portrait Gallery in London (2010) and the New York Jewish Museum (2006). The Brooklyn Museum followed with a print retrospective of Katz’s work in 1988 following a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1986. Katz’s first solo show was held in 1954.

In 2015, Mary Ryan Gallery held a solo exhibition entitled “ Alex Katz Black Dress: A Suite of New Prints.” In 2010, “Alex Katz: Prints” was on view at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, which showed a retrospective survey of over 150 graphic works.

Katz’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Denver Art Museum, CO; Detroit Institute of Art, MI; Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, AT; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, PT; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Hiroshima City Museum, JP; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Iwaki City Art Museum, JP; Jewish Museum, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Madison Art Center, WI; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, FR; Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Art, Lausanne, CH; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, AT; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, JP;  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, MX; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; New Orleans Museum of Art, LA; Philadelphia Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Nationalgalerie, Berlin, DE; Tate Gallery, UK and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. Colby College in Maine holds an extensive collection of Katz’s work.
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