Images

Press release

ALEX KATZ
25 November 2003 - 30 January 2004

We are proud to announce the opening of the exhibition Small Portraits and Large Landscapes by Alex Katz, presenting a selection of 20 small size portraits and two large paintings of landscapes made between the Seventies and today. The small portraits are Oil Sketches, preparatory studies in oil on board for large paintings.

These Oil Sketches are not only preparatory studies showing a monumental plan at its birth, but are also autonomous works revealing the initial and spontaneous passion of the artist for his subject. Katz's ability in rendering with a few brush strokes the fragile unity of a moment, reveals much of the person portrayed and of the artist's intimate personal reflections, voluntarily abandoned in the large portraits on canvas which show a more stable, definitive vision. This characteristic is enhanced by the small size which draws the viewer to approach closely and enter the space of the painting, thereby establishing a more intimate physical and mental relationship with the work.

Alex Katz creates an essential, intense figuration, which thanks to his attention to mass media, cartoons and photography, is today particularly close to the sensitivity of much younger artists. Having appeared on the American artistic scene at the end of the '50s , the years of Abstract Expressionism, and being a contemporary of Pop Art and the subsequent artistic movements, Katz surprisingly managed to reconcile the abstract movement with realism in US postwar art, in a style that he himself defines as "totally American". The images are essential, luminous, direct and sharp, showing very intense colour planes, rendered in a particular bidimensional perspective, free of any sentimental connotation and yet able to communicate a profound psychological involvement.

Katz loves portraits. These are never ironic or judgmental, but, far from being neutral, they rather state his devotion and attention to his world of friends, artists, poets, musicians, dancers. In particular he often portrays his son, Vincent and his wife Ada, his main muse, whom he turned into an icon of our times.

Alex Katz was born in New York in 1927 and studied painting at the Cooper Union. After his first one man show at the Roko Gallery in New York in 1954, he began to work on drawings and collages turning to portraits in 1957 and to large size paintings in 1962 after moving to his new studio in Soho. His first retrospective exhibition was held at the Utah Museum of Fine Art. After that he showed regularly in American museums and galleries. In 1986 the Whitney Museum of American Art showed a large-scale retrospective and in 1997 the PS1 Museum in New York organized the exhibition "Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes 1951-1995".

Although he is considered one of the most important US painters, Alex Katz had few exhibitions in Europe until 1995. Europe discovered him only in these last years. In 1995 the Baden Baden Museum in Germany had presented an exhibition entitled "Alex Katz. American Landscapes" and in 1996 the IVAM Museum in Valencia, Spain, showed a retrospective of his works. One-person exhibitions were then held in 1998 at the Saatchi Gallery in London and in 1999 at the Museum of Modern Art of Frankfurt. In 2002 the Kunsthalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in Bonn hold a large retrospective, while the Kunsthalle in Hamburg presented his Cut-Outs. In 1999 the Galleria Civica in Trento organised his first personal exhibition in an Italian public structure, and in Summer 2003 the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice showed a selection of his portraits from 1959 to the present.

Texts

Alex Katz