Timothy Taylor is honoured to present the first large-scale exhibition of Alex Katz in China. Now in his 89th year, Katz is one of the most significant artists of his generation, with a far-reaching influence over many of today’s most successful artists.
Determined to pioneer a style that set him apart from his contemporaries, Katz’s distinct minimal aesthetic – developed in New York in the 1950s before the emergence of Pop Art and as a reaction to the dominance of Abstract Expressionism – is revealed in large-scale works that are both deeply intimate and also icons of a resolute style. Katz’s economy of line and nuanced use of colour has remained constant throughout his rich and extensive career.
Portraits of family and friends, still-lifes of flowers purchased from street vendors near his New York studio, and landscapes drawn from the artist’s personal experiences in urban and rural locations are characteristic of Katz’s flawless mastery of his medium. Painted from life and in single sessions, there is an essential vitality and timelessness to Katz’s work. His subjects gaze evenly towards the viewer and simultaneously stand with their backs turned. White roses sit against flat fields of pale blue, threatening to dissolve in abstracted form and a uniformity of hue – a recurring element in Katz’s stylised images. There is often no background, and no narrative, other than what the viewer brings to each work. This is essential for Katz’s tension – where the lack of a specific story enables the viewer to complete the picture. It also allows Katz to create very contemporary images, as he states:
I’m trying to paint the now. And narrative is a story, and once you get into the story it's no longer in the real present tense.
The art critic Barry Schwabsky recently noted that Katz’s choice of subject also contributes to the openness of his work; his muses verge on celebrity but remain for the most part unidentifiable, except in the social group to which they belong. However, certain familiar subjects do reappear – Vivien, Elizabeth – and most significantly his wife Ada, whom Katz has been painting for almost 60 years.
Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. After graduating from the Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan in 1949, he was awarded a scholarship by the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In 1968, Katz moved into an artists’ cooperative building in SoHo, New York, where he has lived and worked ever since, spending his summers in Lincolnville, Maine. The subject of over 200 solo and 500 group exhibitions internationally since 1951, Katz has been honoured with numerous retrospectives including The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; Tate St. Ives, UK; Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK; and The Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain. His works are included in the most important collections worldwide, most notably The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, USA; Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; and Tate Collection, UK.
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