Alex Katz is an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Born in Brooklyn in 1927 and raised in Queens, Katz began his artistic studies at an early age while attending Woodrow Wilson High School, a school with a unique program that allowed him to devote his afternoons to the arts. He continued his art studies after high school; in 1946, he enrolled at the Cooper Union where he was trained in modern art theories, and upon graduating in 1949 received a scholarship for summer study at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine, which he renewed the next summer as well. These summers taught Katz to work from life, as opposed to the more removed approach to art-making that he learned at the Cooper Union of painting from drawings, a method to which he would adhere throughout his career.
Katz had his first one-man show at the Roko Gallery in New York in 1946, and was soon immersed in the city’s vibrant art and intellectual scene, befriending the painters Larry Rivers and Fairfield Porter, the photographer Rudolph Burckhardt, and the poets John Ashbery, Edwin Denby, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler. By the 1950s, Katz moved towards greater realism in his work, focusing mainly on portraiture, using his friends and wife Ada as subjects. These paintings generally had monochrome backgrounds, an aesthetic that anticipates Pop Art, and that also set him apart from the gestural work of his contemporaries.
In the 1960s, the size of his paintings expanded to almost billboard magnitudes, and he dramatically cropped his subjects’ faces, creating an intensely direct connection with the viewer, and beginning in 1964 took to painting groups of people as opposed to individuals. These groups usually represented the complex social world of painters, poets, and critics to which he belonged.
Katz has been the subject of many one-man shows throughout his career, including a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1986, the same year he painted Clearing. More recently in 2010, the Albertine Museum in Vienna
organized Alex Katz Prints and The National Portrait Gallery in London held Alex Katz Portraits. Katz was also included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Facing the Figure: Selections from the Permanent Collection, also in 2010, an in its 2012 show Regarding Warhol: Sixty Arts, Fifty Years. Works by Alex Katz can be found in over 100 public collections worldwide. Most notably, those in America include: Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Brooklyn Museum; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Des Moines Art Center; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Milwaukee Art Museum; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford; and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Additionally, Katz’s work can be found in the Albertine Graphische Sammelung (Austria), the Atenium Taidemuso (Finland), the Sara Hildén Art Museum (Finland), the Bayerische Museum (Germany), the Berardo Collection (Portugal), the Essl Collection (Austria), the French National Collection, the Israel Museum, IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez (Spain), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Japan), Museum Moderne Kunst (Austria), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Spain), the Nationalgalerie (Germany), the Saatchi Collection (England), and the Tate Gallery (England), among others.
Katz currently lives in a artists’ cooperative building in New York City, and spends his summers in Maine, a state whose nature continues to inspire more landscapes.
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