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 Alex Katz  (1927 - )

About: Alex Katz
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine      Known for: post modernist figure and still-life painting, printmaking

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BIOGRAPHY for Alex Katz
Facts/Data
Birth
1927 (Brooklyn, New York)
 
Lived/Active
New York/Maine


Self portrait - Self Portrait with Sweatshirt
© Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY See Details


Often Known For
post modernist figure and still-life painting, printmaking

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Modernism
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The son of Russian immigrants, Alex Katz was born July 24, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Queens in a liberal, Bohemian setting. He is a figure painter of realistic portraits of friends and family, and his figures are usually relaxed close-ups from a frontal perspective and appear in a flattened manner. With his artwork, he strives to convey the feeling that it is good to be alive.  It has been said that his style highly influenced the popularity of New Realism in the 1970s. Along with his associates Al Held and Philip Pearlstein,  and others who were struggling against the 'titanic presences of Pollock and de Kooning' and other abstract expressionists.

Katz studied three years (1946-49) at Cooper Union and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine from 1949-50.  During the 1960s, he was an art educator with teaching positions in New York City at the New York Studio School and School of Visual Arts; in New Haven at Yale University; and in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute.  He also supported himself by making hand-carved frames and designing stage sets and costumes in 1960 and 1964 for the Paul Taylor Dance Company for their performances at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. 

By 1954, Alex Katz had his first one-person show at the Roko Gallery in New York.  The following year he began making cut paper collages.  His wife, Ada, has been his model since they married in 1958.  He works from a studio in SoHo, and they have lived in the same loft since 1968.

Exhibitions include:

1974
Alex Katz Prints, a traveling exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art

1986
Alex Katz, a traveling retrospective exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art

1988
Alex Katz: A Print Retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum of Art

1995
Alex Katz: American Landscape at Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany

1996
Alex Katz at I.V.A.M. Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia, Spain

1996
Alex Katz: A Drawing Retrospective, a traveling exhibition at Munson-Williams Proctor Institute, Utica, New York

1996-98
Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes 1951-1995, organized by the Institute for Contemporary Art/P.S. 1 Museum, opens at the Baltimore Museum of art; traveling to the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach Florida; the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine; and P.S. 1 Museum, New York

1998
Alex Katz: Twenty Five Years of Painting at The Saatchi Collection, London, England

1999 Alex Katz at Galleria Civica Di Arte Contemporanea, Trento, Italy.

2000 Regarding Alex Katz at Carnegie Museum of Art , Pittsburgh.

2001 Alex Katz Small Paintings at Addison Gallery of American Art Phillips Academy, Andover.

2002 Alex Katz Small Paintings
at Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, Andover.
at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
at Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York
at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, March 22-June 2, 2002
at Oklahoma City Art Museum, Oklahoma City, OK
at The Austin Museum of Art, Austin, February 15-May 4 2003

Sources include:
Alex Katz's website: http://alexkatz.com/bio.html
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art





This biography from the Archives of AskART:
On July 24, 1927 Alex Katz was born in New York City.  From 1946-49 he studied at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, and then at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine from 1949-50.  In 1972 he was awarded the Guggenheim Grant in Painting.

Alex Katz is notable among artists who have emerged since 1950.  His career now spans more than fifty years, and he has produced a large body of work that displays a unique aspect of modern realism.  The mainstay of Katz's paintings since the late 1950's have been portraits, and his subjects are often his wife, Ada, son, Vincent, and a circle of friends composed of artists, poets, critics and dancers. His portraits combine aspects of both abstraction and representation, and are characterized by flatly painted, dramatically cropped, oversize heads that recall movies, advertising and billboards.

Drafted on V-J Day, Katz had a brief stint in the Navy, and spent time in places as varied as Marseille, France, Panama, and Japan.  When he mustered out, he used money from the GI bill to attend Cooper Union.

Later, living in New York's East Village in the 1950s, Katz was surrounded by the art and artists of Abstract Expressionism.  Unlike the emotionally charged abstractions of artists such as Pollock and DeKooning, Katz favored cool, representational work.  When the dominant trend in artmaking involved emotional outbursts of color, Katz was filling galleries with spare, simplified portraits and landscapes painted with control.  In his 1992 book about the artist, Sam Hunter describes Katz's portraiture as having a "lack of any apparent interest in revealing his sitter's personality," and Katz himself would likely agree, as he says his work does not contain narrative.  What concerns Katz most is the surface appearance and the translation of a three-dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface.

For almost fifty years, he has painted portraits of his wife, Ada, and many books and articles have been written about the cumulative effect of this body of work, and her role as his muse, comparing her to other 'goddesses' who have capitvated the imagination of portrait painters.

Katz has also taught painting at several institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Yale Universtiy.  Since 1954 Katz has been a summer resident of Lincolnville, Maine, and has developed a relationship with Colby College there.  The college presented him with an honorary doctorate in 1984, and in October 1996, the Colby College Museum of Art opened a wing dedicated to Katz that features more than 400 oil paintings, collages and prints that he had donated.

 
Sources include:
the website wikipedia; to Richard Marshall, Associate Curator of Exhibitions; Whitney Museum of American Art, from the catalogue, 'Alex Katz: A Retrospective'; the website of Michael Berger Gallery.; the website of yale.edu; the website of the Smithsonian Institution, si.edu, and their article of Paul Cumings' October, 1969, interview with Alex Katz.

Biography from GallArt.com:
Alex Katz, American (1927 - )

Alex Katz is a leading figure painter of the new realism movement in contemporary art. He is best known for his realistic portraits of friends and family, notable for their relaxed attitudes and uncomplicated bearing.

Katz was born in New York City, and studied art at the Cooper Union from 1945 to 1949. In the late 1950s, he found himself among a growing number of artists dissatisfied with the then-dominant stream of abstract expressionism, with its emphasis on formal abstraction.

The rebellion against abstract expressionism, which continued through the 1960s, took several forms. The most celebrated was the pop art of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and others, who sought to mine the mother lodes of media imagery and consumer culture for the content of their art.

In contrast to the pop artists, with their emphasis on the consumer icon, a number of painters in the mid-to-late 1950s, including Larry Rivers and Alex Katz, had begun to find their own inspiration. in the literal rendition of human figures.

Katz's paintings from the late 1950s to the present have been characterized by such literal, yet expressive, portrayals of human figures. Stylistically, his figures are simplified in form, but not caricatured or rendered grotesque. On the contrary, one of the hallmarks of Katz's figures is their apparent normalcy.

Katz's figures are typically presented at close range from a frontal perspective, and in a flattened manner somewhat suggestive of a Polaroid snapshot.

Filling up the spaces of his canvases, his figures address the viewer head-on, creating a sense of familiarity reinforced by the subjects' relaxed attitudes.

Katz taught painting throughout the 1960s at such institutions as the Pratt Institute, the School of the Visual Arts in New York, and the New York Studio School. He designed stage sets and costumes for the Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto in 1960 and 1964.

In the 1970s, his paintings have been highly influential to the development and popularization of the new realism as a discrete movement in contemporary art.

Katz has collaborated with poets and writers since the 1960s, producing several notable editions such as Face of the Poet combining his images with poetry from his circle, such as Ted Berrigan, Ann Lauterbach, Carter Ratcliff, and Gerard Malanga. He has worked with the poet John Ashbery, creating publications entitled "Fragment in 1966 and "Coma Berenices" in 2005. He has worked with Vincent Katz on A Tremor in the Morning and Swimming Home.  Katz also made 25 etchings for the Arion Press edition of Gloria with 28 poems by Bill Berkson Other collaborators include Robert Creely, with whom he produced Edges and Legeia: A Libretto and Kenneth Koch, producing Interlocking Lives.

Katz has received numerous accolades throughout his career. In 2007, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy Museum, New York. In 2005, Katz was the honored artist at the Chicago Humanities Festival’s Inaugural Richard Gray Annual Visual Arts Series. The same year, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Colgate University, Hamilton, New York— his second Honorary Doctorate, following one from Colby College, Maine, in 1984. Katz was named the Philip Morris Distinguished Artist at the American Academy in Berlin in 2001 and received the Cooper Union Annual Artist of the City Award in 2000. In addition to this honor, in 1994 Cooper Union Art School created the Alex Katz Visiting Chair in Painting with an endowment provided by the sale of ten paintings donated by the artist. Katz was inducted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988. In 1987 he was the recipient of the Pratt Institute’s Mary Buckley Award for achievement and also received the Queens Museum of Art Award for Lifetime Achievement. The Chicago Bar Association honored Katz with the Award for Art in Public Places in 1985. In 1978, Katz received the U.S. Government grant to participate in an educational and cultural exchange with the USSR. Katz was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for Painting in 1972.

Numerous publications outline Katz's career's many facets: from Alex Katz in Maine published by the Farnsworth Art Museum to the catalogue Alex Katz New York, published by the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Alex Katz Seeing Drawing, Making, published in 2008, describes Katz's multiple stage process of first producing charcoal drawings, small oil studies, and large cartoons for placing the image on the canvas and the final painting of the canvas. Phaidon Press (2005) published an illustrated survey, Alex Katz by Carter Ratcliff, Robert Storr and Iwona Blazwick. In 1989, a special edition of Parkett was devoted to Katz, showing that he is now considered a major reference for younger painters and artists. Over the years, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Liam Gillick, Peter Halley, David Salle and Richard Prince have written essays about his work or conducted interviews with him.

In 1996, Vincent Katz and Vivien Bittencourt produced a video titled Alex Katz: Five Hours, documenting the production of his painting January 3 and in 2008 he was the subject of a documentary directed by Heinz Peter Schwerfel, entitled What About Style? Alex Katz: a Painter's Painter.

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