In Blue Umbrella 2 (1972), Alex Katz depicts Ada Katz, his wife and most iconic subject. Over the course of a collaboration between artist and sitter that stretches from the late 1950s to today, Katz has portrayed Ada in countless guises, from radiant ingénue, to preoccupied young mother, to reflective nonagenarian. Continue reading Modern Art Monday Presents: Alex Katz, Blue Umbrella 2→
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.
The best of Alex Katz’s portraits create a palpable tension between specific and abstract, intimate and remote, near and far. This tension animates Katz’s depiction of both people and space. With Red Coat, (1982) an enigmatic portrait of his wife, Ada, the artist takes his cue from movies, photography and adverting; radically cropping and magnifying his wife’s visage, bringing her face to the very front of the picture plane. Yet, despite her proximity to the viewer, Ada’s expression is indecipherable: whatever she might be thinking or feeling remains a mystery. This does nothing to dampen the portrait’s emotional and psychological charge, which derive directly from Ada’s inaccessibility.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.