'When Alex Katz was making pen drawings of New York’s subway riders in 1940s, his lines had a demure stillness against the trains’s deadpan run. “The line was slower and more tentative than it is now,” he explains to Cultured. When he proceeded to oil painting of his friends in the city’s arts community in the ‘60s, he captured dancers’s performative gestures through their entire bodies while focusing on a sitter’s gaze in a portraiture: “Movement involves the whole figure whereas with the portraits, it’s static and fixed with the eyes.” [...]
These seminal bodies of work, in addition to his paintings of interiors, nature, and architecture, are included in Katz’s new Guggenheim survey, “Gathering,” which opens today. [...] decade commitment to capture the human figure as a source of subjective interiority and a participant of shared temporality. This balancing of belonging and singularity permeates into the 95-year-old’s unmistakable style in which human expression breaks painterly limits, proving the possibility of emotional layering on flat perspective. [...]
Time is both a collaborator and a challenge for Katz, whose loyalty to paint his subjects throughout the decades gives his practice a chronicler aspect. “The earth turns every day and we move, and I try to make a portrait in the immediate present,” he offers. As changing times have yielded new ways to engage with faces over time—photography, television, computers, social media, and even AIex Katz’s visages have refused compromising the human element, the flesh that shields the lingering emotion, right before, during, and a little after his poser has sat for him. [...]
Living between Manhattan and Maine lets natural vistas penetrate his imagination as much as the New York-born artist turns to geometry of urban landscapes for inspiration. He considers nature with its artistic mastery as “an excuse to paint with no drawing,” while the country and the city both prompt him to reach to his palette because “the places renew each other. [...] ”
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