For more than sixty years, Alex Katz has created paintings distinguished by their bold colors, sharp outlines, and subjects taken from his daily life. By simplifying facial features and using flat, unmixed colors in works such as Edwin, Blue Series (1965), Katz emphasizes the form of the painting above its content. Here, he has cropped the left side of the body, asserting the figure as a subject of abstraction. The painting depicts Edwin Denby, a modernist poet and dance critic as well as a close friend of artists including Katz, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Franz Kline. Katz credits Denby for his appreciation of abstraction. Refusing to reveal his subjects’ personalities or interior life, Katz’s paintings focus instead on technique and visual invention.
Rosalyn Drexler’s work often explores the dark backstories of postwar media culture and gender roles through imagery taken from mass-produced printed materials. For Love and Violence (1965), she enlarged a poster from the 1963 Hollywood film, Toys in the Attic, collaged it onto canvas and then painted over it within a flattened visual field. In this image, the movie’s main character, played by Dean Martin, embraces the female lead, Yvette Mimieux, with his hands at her chin. By setting the image against a red background, above cinematic scenes of brutality, Drexler highlights the threat implied by the male character’s seemingly intimate gesture. In the artist’s words, these popular images were “hidden but present, like a disturbing memory.”
Paul Feeley (1910 – 1966) has often been associated with Color Field painters, but his most recognized works, largely made between 1962 and 1965, stand apart from those of his peers for their economy of color and spare compositions. Formal Haut (1965), produced the year before Feeley’s death, features his signature forms, namely a single jack (inspired by the game of jacks) and repeated baluster shapes. Their convex and concave contours interlock in a symmetrical arrangement, centered within the square frame. The simple geometric design is highlighted by an equally uncomplicated palette, limited to just two contrasting colors on unprimed canvas.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, On Through August 2nd, 2020 at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
For Venezuelan artist Antonieta Sosa, Ajedrez Visual(Visual Chess), 1965, was “like my spinal column or my umbilical cord, uniting me to painting.” Scattered pops of color interrupt the regularity of the black grid, animating it with the playful movement suggested by the work’s title.
At times, these contrasting hues prompt an optical flickering or afterimage. To Sosa, such retinal effects underscore vision as a dynamic physiological process. Thus, Visual Chess foreshadows her eventual decisions to “come down from the wall” to engage with real space and bodies in the form of sculpture, performance and installations.
Magnet TV (1965) is an early example of Nam June Paik’s“Prepared Televisions,” works in which he altered the television’s image or its physical casing. This work consists of a seventeen-inch, black and white set with an industrial-size magnet resting on top of it. The magnetic field interferes with the television’s reception of electronic signals, distorting the picture into an abstract form that changes when the magnet is moved.
Paik’s radical action undermines the seemingly inviolable power of broadcast television by transforming the TV set into sculpture, one whose moving image is created by chance, and can be manipulated at will. Through his alteration of the television image, Paik challenged the notion of the art object as a self-contained entity and established a process of instant feedback, whereby the viewer’s actions have a direct effect on the form and meaning of the work.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
Unlike many 20th-century fashion designers, Norman Norell rarely sought inspiration from non-western or exotic cultures. Norell’sObi dresses (circa 1965) were a rare exception. Named after the wide belt used to secure and ornament a Japanese Kimono, the wrap-wtyle Obi Dresses were constructed with a built-in panel of fabric that encased the upper torso using a hook and eye closure.This interior garment allowed the outer wrap layer to glide smoothly over the body.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Norell: Dean of American Fashion, at the Museum at FIT.
Yves Saint Laurent’s fall 1965 collection was inspired by the paintings of Piet Mondrian. While it became one of Saint Laurent’s most famous collections, other designers had introduced similar designs before him. The Montreal Gazette claimed that color-blocked dresses by Michele Roiser had inspired Saint Laurent to “add a few black lines” to his own creations.
YSL dress seen here with a color block design by Lousi Feraud (circa 1967) on the left.