Alex Katz Biography
Known for his use of blunt figuration and flat, planar application of color and paint, Alex Katz’s works can be seen as both a reaction to, and visual respite from, the rise of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s. Katz was born 14 July 1927 in New York City and he undertook formal training at both the Cooper Union School of Art and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His initial practice involved using cutout figures primarily comprising painted figures on canvas glued to plywood, and he has maintained the aesthetic of these early works throughout his career. His most recognizable works are large-scale canvases painted with blunt, austere figures set against a monochrome background, omitting most, if not all, context. The occupants of his paintings are left seeming emotionless, and their severe, even graphic representation rejects any attempt at sentimental engagement. Ada, the artist’s wife of more than 60 years, is his muse and frequent subject of his work, appearing in numerous paintings by Katz since they wed in 1958.
Although Katz’s career overlapped largely with the height of Abstract Expressionism, he openly rejected the tenets of the movement, going as far as to say, “We compete for audiences, as artists. I’m competing with the Abstract Expressionist guys. I’ll knock ’em off the wall.” And compete he has: Katz had his first solo exhibition at Roko Gallery in New York City in 1954, and in 1986 the Whitney Museum of American Art held his first retrospective. Today, Katz’s work is recognized worldwide, but his popularity is most apparent within the United States, and is held in many of the country’s largest and well known collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery, Washington, DC; and the Art Institute of Chicago.