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Alex Katz

American figurative and portrait artist

Alex Katz is widely regarded for his vibrant, large-scale portraits that combine intimacy with pop art aesthetics. The landscapes and portraits, with their flat planes of rich, gorgeous color, suggest the smooth aesthetics of advertising billboards and cinema.

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Alex Katz is widely regarded for his vibrant, large-scale portraits that combine intimacy with pop art aesthetics. The landscapes and portraits, with their flat planes of rich, gorgeous color, suggest the smooth aesthetics of advertising billboards and cinema.

Artworks

Alex Katz Sales Data Information

Data gathered from public auction results (e.g Sothebys, Christies, etc.)

Biography

The prolific artist is best renowned for his paintings of his wife and inspiration, Ada. Katz's unique style evolved as a reaction to the Abstract Expressionism that dominated the mid-twentieth century, when he began painting. Instead, he embraced storytelling, figurative clarity, and the approachable delights of Pop art, while remaining unattached to any specific school or trend.

  • Beginnings

    Alex Katz was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. His family relocated to St. Albans, a diverse Queens suburb that had risen up between the two world wars, in 1928, at the start of the Depression. Katz was reared by his Russian émigré parents, both of whom were interested in poetry and the arts, his mother being a Yiddish theater actor. Katz attended Woodrow Wilson High School because of its unusual program, which allowed him to spend his mornings studying and his afternoons performing arts

  • Early Works

    Katz began painting large-scale canvases, frequently with severely cropped features, in the early 1960s, motivated by cinema, television, and billboard advertising. In 1965, he also began a successful printmaking career. Katz went on to create a number of editions in lithography, etching, silkscreen, woodcut, and linoleum cut. Katz began to depict groups of people more frequently after 1964. He would continue to paint these complicated groups throughout the 1970s, depicting the social life of his colleagues, including painters, poets, critics, and other artists. In the early 1960s, he began designing sets and costumes for choreographer Paul Taylor, and he has created many images of dancers over the years.

  • Most Famous Works

    Katz's most recognizable works are large-scale canvases with simple figures set against a monochrome background that removes all sense of context. Ada, the artist's wife of more than 60 years, is a recurrent topic in his work, appearing in countless paintings since their marriage in 1958. In 1960, he began working with renowned choreographer and dancer Paul Taylor, producing costumes and set designs for his dance company. The partnership spurred Katz's fascination in the representation of motion, which he has continued to explore in his renderings of models and dancers.

  • Style & Technique

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Katz concentrated on huge landscape paintings that he describes as "environmental." Instead than viewing a landscape from a distance, the observer is surrounded by surrounding nature. Katz began each of these canvases with "an notion of the landscape, a thought," then searched for the picture in nature. Katz softened the boundaries of his landscape paintings, creating the works with greater painterliness than before in these allover canvases. In 1986, Katz began a series of night paintings, a departure from the sunny landscapes he had previously created, forcing him to experiment with a new form of light. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Katz's art included variations on the motif of light falling through branches. Katz also began painting flowers in abundance towards the turn of the millennium, filling canvases in blossoms akin to those he initially explored in the late 1960s, when he created big close-ups of flowers in loneliness or in small clusters.

  • Success

    Since 1951, Alex Katz's art has been the subject of over 250 solo exhibits and approximately 500 group exhibitions worldwide. 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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