Image: Alex Katz Is Still Perfecting His Craft
Alex Katz, photographed in his New York City studio on June 16, 2022. The artist, who has been painting for almost eight decades, is the subject of a Guggenheim retrospective this fall.
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Alex Katz Is Still Perfecting His Craft Amanda Fortini on her visit to the artist’s home and studio

19 August 2022
ENTERING ALEX KATZ’S home and studio, on the block in New York’s SoHo neighborhood where he has lived and worked since 1968, is like stepping directly into his mind, from which his enveloping aesthetic world originates. When I arrive at his light-washed loft space late on a summer morning, Katz, who turned 95 this past July, is in the spare nook of the kitchen, where he has just put the finishing brushstrokes on a study of lavender peonies — one of the first iterative steps toward creating his monumental works, which are hung on walls and leaning against various surfaces in the living space and adjacent studio. The profusion of these paintings, the simple furnishings, the metal cart filled with brushes and paint that has been rolled into the kitchen: All of it evokes a place where work and life are indistinguishable. Through the doorway of a room off the kitchen, I glimpse his reclusive wife, Ada, 94, a spectral, gray-haired figure. Since 1957, when they met, he has depicted her nearly a thousand times in various media.

Katz, a spry man whose leanness and perfectly bald head lend him an aura of debonair elegance, greets me without introduction or preamble. “I’m going to Venice,” he announces, referring to a possible upcoming show. He’s dressed in paint-stained khakis and dirty canvas sneakers — a painter in the weeds. There’s a small, endearing smudge of dried white pigment next to his left eye. He tells me that for this show, which is still in the planning stage, he thought about painting “all grass, like the grass paintings” (his large-scale abstract works of recent years have been of grass and trees, done in bright greens and yellows), or “all water, like the black paintings” (he has been making dark-hued renderings of various subjects, from cityscapes to a particular brook in Maine to his recent inky black depictions of the ocean, since the late 1980s). “And then,” he says, “in the middle of the night, I got the idea: ‘How about Claire McCardell?’”
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