Alex Katz Alex Katz

Alex Katz

American
b. 1927
/

Overview

'Reality is subject to fashion and so you get something where there's no past tense, there's no future tense, there's only now. I want to paint the now [...] the immediate present. And that's what consciousness is.'

Coming of age as an artist in 1950s New York, Alex Katz developed his unique approach to contemporary representational painting at the height of Abstract Expressionism. Over the seven decades since his first exhibition in 1954, he has produced a celebrated body of work, including paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints. A pre-eminent painter of modern life, he draws inspiration from films, billboard advertising, music, poetry and his close circle of friends and family. Primarily working from life, he produces images in which line and form are expressed through carefully composed strokes and planes of flat colour. His great admiration for Henri Matisse's sense of colour, composition and economy of means is evident in Katz's work, as is his interest in the American vernacular tradition.

Katz's most recognisable works are large-scale canvases populated by simplified figures set against a monochrome background that minimises any sense of context. Ada, the artist's wife for over 60 years, is a frequent subject in his work, appearing in innumerable paintings since they married in 1958. He began collaborating with famed choreographer and dancer Paul Taylor in 1960, creating costumes and set designs for his dance company. Beyond this work for the stage, the collaboration sparked Katz's interest in the representation of motion, a theme he has continued to explore in his depictions of models and dancers. 

Coming of age as an artist in 1950s New York, Alex Katz developed his unique approach to contemporary representational painting at the height of Abstract Expressionism. Over the seven decades since his first exhibition in 1954, he has produced a celebrated body of work, including paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints. A pre-eminent painter of modern life, he draws inspiration from films, billboard advertising, music, poetry and his close circle of friends and family. Primarily working from life, he produces images in which line and form are expressed through carefully composed strokes and planes of flat colour. His great admiration for Henri Matisse's sense of colour, composition and economy of means is evident in Katz's work, as is his interest in the American vernacular tradition.

Katz's most recognisable works are large-scale canvases populated by simplified figures set against a monochrome background that minimises any sense of context. Ada, the artist's wife for over 60 years, is a frequent subject in his work, appearing in innumerable paintings since they married in 1958. He began collaborating with famed choreographer and dancer Paul Taylor in 1960, creating costumes and set designs for his dance company. Beyond this work for the stage, the collaboration sparked Katz's interest in the representation of motion, a theme he has continued to explore in his depictions of models and dancers.  

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Katz's canvases increased in size and he created a number of multi-panel paintings, often with dramatically cropped figures and faces. He was greatly influenced by television in this period, particularly the monumental scale of the cinema screen. Through the late 1980s and 1990s, he focused much of his attention on large-scale landscape paintings, which he characterises as 'environmental'. A born and bred New Yorker, Katz spends his summers in Lincolnville, Maine and has captured his summer home and its surroundings in all their rural splendour. 

Variations on the theme of light falling through branches appeared in Katz's work throughout the 1990s and 2000s. At the beginning of the new millennium, he also began painting a profusion of flowers, covering canvases in blossoms, a subject he had first explored in the late 1960s, when he painted close-ups of single flowers or small clusters. In the 2010s, he began using multiple tightly cropped images of the same subject sequenced across the canvas as if in a strip of film, combining a variety of angles to create the impression of an environmental portrait.

Born in Brooklyn, Katz lives and works in New York. He studied at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. He has created numerous public art projects throughout his career, including a Times Square billboard (1977), an aluminium mural for Harlem Station (1984), and a recent installation of 19 large-scale works on glass for the New York subway. His work has been the subject of over 200 solo exhibitions internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1974, 1986, 2002); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1990); Baltimore Museum of Art (1996); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2007); Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland (2009); National Portrait Gallery, London (2010); Albertina, Vienna (2014); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2015); Serpentine Galleries, London (2016); Tate Liverpool (2018); Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris (2019); and Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (2020), followed by a career retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2022.

Videos

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Alex Katz Red Dancers

Alex Katz

Red Dancers
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Alex Katz 45 Years of Portraits 1969 – 2014

Alex Katz

45 Years of Portraits 1969 – 2014
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Alex Katz Face The Music

Alex Katz

Face The Music
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Group Exhibition Space Age

Group Exhibition

Space Age
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Group Exhibition Home (Very) Sweet Home

Group Exhibition

Home (Very) Sweet Home
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Group Exhibition 30 JAHRE / 30 YEARS

Group Exhibition

30 JAHRE / 30 YEARS

Exhibitions

Publications

Alex Katz 45 Years of Portraits
Alex Katz 45 Years of Portraits
Alex Katz 45 Years of Portraits

Alex Katz
45 Years of Portraits

2014

Publications

Alex Katz 45 Years of Portraits

Alex Katz

45 Years of Portraits
2014
Alex Katz: 45 Years of Portraits
€ 42.00
Alex Katz Face The Music

Alex Katz

Face The Music
2011
Alex Katz: Face The Music
€ 20.00
Alex Katz Fashion

Alex Katz

Fashion
2009
Alex Katz: Fashion
€ 20.00
Alex Katz Drawings

Alex Katz

Drawings
2007
Alex Katz: Drawings
€ 15.00
Alex Katz New Faces 2006

Alex Katz

New Faces 2006
2006
Alex Katz: New Faces 2006
€ 10.00
Alex Katz Cartoons and Paintings

Alex Katz

Cartoons and Paintings
2004
Alex Katz: Cartoons and Paintings
€ 25.00
Alex Katz Penobscot Bay

Alex Katz

Penobscot Bay
2003
Alex Katz: Penobscot Bay
€ 10.00
Alex Katz Beach scenes and Landscapes

Alex Katz

Beach scenes and Landscapes
2002
Alex Katz: Beach scenes and Landscapes
€ 10.00

News and Press

News and Press

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