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Black Dress: A Suite of New Prints

Alex Katz Exhibition, 2014

Mary Ryan Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of work by Alex Katz that will feature the debut of his latest large-scale screen prints. The artist will be present at the opening reception, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 6-8PM.

A consummate printmaker, Katz’s practice of painting and printmaking are deeply entwined as many of his print projects are based on his paintings. The “Black Dress” project was first completed as a series of paintings done on door panels, depicting standing woman in the classic fashion design. The exhibition is centered around this new suite, consisting of nine original screen prints each rendered at a monumental size of 80 x 30 inches, which mimic the size of the paintings. Each one is screen printed in 25 to 35 colors and follows Katz’s signature style of exploring portraiture and monochromatic elements.

In response to this project, noted fashion designer Calvin Klein wrote:
I also love what a simple black dress says about the woman who wears it. By making such a subtle and concise choice, she’s letting the world know she is strong and her sense of self is powerful. She’s not in need of embellishment or exaggeration. She doesn’t expect to have all eyes on her, although, probably, if she carries herself proudly, she will. And that’s just the most modern and wonderful attitude anyone can have.
Alex Katz’s Black Dress series is just as modern and wonderful. And, ironically, it has absolutely nothing to do with fashion. His portraits have such strong color fields and clean lines. And despite their apparent simplicity, they’re extremely expressive and perfectly capture the essence of his subjects. You can’t help but notice these women, these beautiful enigmas drawn in bold and certain strokes. You wonder who they are, how they live, what they feel, just exactly what they have going on.

Also on view is one of the artist’s earliest screenprints, the 1986 “Blueberry Field,” as well as a portfolio of six aquatints called “Small Cuts” that Katz made in 2008 inspired by the early collages he made in the late 1950s. These small collages depict figures in landscapes from hand-colored strips of delicately cut paper.

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 received his BA in 1949 at The Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan and later attended the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine. His work has since been the subject of numerous exhibitions worldwide. The Whitney Museum of American Art organized a retrospective in 1986, and the Brooklyn Museum followed with a print retrospective of Katz’s work in 1988. In 2010, “Alex Katz: Prints” was on view at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, which showed a retrospective survey of over 150 graphic works. The National Portrait Gallery in London presented an exhibition titled “Alex Katz: Portraits.” The Jewish Museum held an exhibition of his works featuring his wide Ada in 2006. Most recently, The Whitney Museum and Friends of the High Line announced a major public art project in 2014 in collaboration with Katz. Colby College in Maine holds an extensive collection of Katz’s work.