A step away from them
A conversation with Alex Katz
John Baldessari to
Francesco Clemente, from Eric
A.R. Penck – the exhibition "Singular Multiples," which can currently
be seen at the Museum
of Fine Arts in Houston, offers an impressive panorama of graphic art.
All of the more than 400 works shown stem from the archive of
Peter Blum Editions, which published graphic editions by many
important artists from 1980 to 1994. The three-part show is being
sponsored by Deutsche Bank. A conversation with Alex Katz marks the
beginning of our series of exclusive interviews with artists represented
in the exhibition. Cheryl Kaplan met with Alex Katz in New York –
at home and in the studio.
Katz, 3 PM, 1988,
Copyright Peter Blum Editions, New York and Alex Katz, © VG Bild-Kunst,
It feels like Katz
is everywhere these days: at the
Armory Show in his hometown New York earlier this spring, and now at
Pace Wildenstein with a major exhibition called The Sixties that
includes some works never before seen. An incredibly impressive
Phaidon monograph has also recently been published. In October 2006,
Katz will be having a major retrospective of his Ada paintings called Ada
by Alex Katz at New York’s
Jewish Museum. The series is based on paintings of his wife Ada, who
has been the unceasing subject of many of Katz’s works. She is a biologist
with an uncanny patience, intelligence, and humor. Katz’s paintings of her
not only trace her evolution, but the evolution of their lives and the
context of the social in all its callings.
Katz at his opening at PaceWildenstein,
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan. © Cheryl Kaplan 2006. All rights reserved.
Alex Katz at his New York studio,
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan.
Kaplan 2006. All rights reserved.
To divide Katz into figures and landscapes is to smooth
over the complex task the artist has undertaken since his start in 1954,
when the poet Frank O’Hara
first reviewed his work for
Art News . Katz is a rare painter. He has an impeccable sense of
timing, scale, and color, using scale to expose everyday life and
revealing a deeply personal moment as well. An early project involved
extremely oversized, isolated images of heads. He has continued these
paintings along with landscapes. It is interesting to see how Katz has
tracked the social. He has painted cocktail parties and lawn parties,
scenes in the afternoon and at night when no one is around. His work often
starts with drawings developed over long periods of time and quickly made
smaller paintings often done on location. The larger paintings are done in
his studio in New York. Katz also spends time in Maine, mostly summers and
paints there as well.
Katz’s work is in the collections of major
international museums ranging from the
Whitney Museum of American Art (USA) and the Museo
Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Spain) to the
Neue Nationalgalerie (Germany).
How did enlargement let you re-invent the image?
It was around 1957 that I wanted to do specific portraits. I was working
in landscape, with big areas of flat color. I had gone from all-over
painting in the early 50s to big color weights.
Franz Kline had these black areas [in his paintings] that [acted like]
weights, which was similar to how
Rothko used color as weight. I started to use color that way. It leads
Velázquez and Titian
, who used color similarly to Kline. After Rothko, I understood Titian.