Alex Katz Paints Ada * The Jewish Museum
10-11-06 e-flux (servicio de noticias on-line)
In Alex Katz Paints Ada, The Jewish Museum is presenting nearly 40 paintings created by the influential post-war artist from 1957 to 2005, starring Ada, his wife, muse and favorite subject.
The Jewish Museum,
Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street,
New York, NY
Discounted admission for senior citizens and students;
children under 12 free
Free Saturdays from 11 am to 5:45 pm
Alex Katz Paints Ada
On view through March 18, 2007
Alex Katz's impressive oeuvre includes landscapes, portraits and still lifes but he is best known for his ability to capture the essence of those close to him – his wife Ada, their son, and artists and friends in the couple's inner circle. These formal portraits, group scenes, large and small paintings, which capture the extraordinary role Ada Katz has played in her husband's creative life, have attained an iconic status and are unprecedented in their focus on a single subject over so many decades. In an essay for the book which accompanies the exhibition, Robert Storr writes "Still in progress, the series stretches over a period of nearly fifty years – from the waning heyday of New York School gestural abstraction through the advent and attenuation of Pop, Minimalism, and Neo-Ex pressionism, as well as a host of other tendencies not excluding those which sought to eclipse traditional means altogether starting with figurative painting. In short, during that half century everything about art and much about American society has changed. Remarkably very little about Ada has. That is the mark of her musedom."
The exhibition is organized into a series of thematic sections focusing on the artist's stylistic developments and concerns but also on the contexts that Ada is pictured in. A number of standing portraits are remarkably astute in their use of the subject as vehicle for formal explorations of flatness, light, and color reminiscent of Matisse. The "Ada, Ada, Ada" section presents works containing multiple representations of Ada. In "Friends and Family," paintings of Katz's favorite subjects, those close to him, including Ada, their son Vincent, and the circle of artists, poets, and dancers who make up his social milieu, are on view. Katz has described himself as a cool painter; he likes detachment and deliberately cultivates an impersonal look about his paintings and their subjects. In "Existential Ada," works such as Blue Umbrella #2 contain references to large-scale cinematic scenes taking their cues from the commercial imagery employed for billboards while using some of the same strategies as Degas. Katz's interest in fashion – what clothes mean and say – and Ada's timeless sense of style are evident in the paintings in the "Style and Glamour" section of the exhibition.
Exhibition curator Ruth Beesch, The Jewish Museum's Deputy Director for Program, notes "His paintings chart the changes in American art and culture of the last fifty years, challenge current theories of feminism and representation, and remind us that this is an artist who understands art history from the Renaissance to Matisse and Rothko. These works are often captivating because of what they leave out and do not say, and for the way they explore formal aspects of painting while hinting at thinly veiled narratives."
For more than four decades Alex Katz has consistently worked in a representational manner, closely observing what he sees in his "own backyard" and creating an expressly American form of realism. It is reductive and economical, conveying only as much as the artist needs it to, reconciling the intangible realm of abstract art and the everyday stuff of living.