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Exhibition presents 70 works documenting Alex Katz's 60 year career as painter
Alex Katz, Twelve Hours, 1984. Oil on linen, 168 x 264 inches. Collection of the artist. Photography by Paul Takeuchi.

NEW HAVEN, CONN.- Alex X Katz, a synoptic overview of the work of Alex Katz (b. 1927), among the most ubiquitous American figures in the international art world today, opens on January 14, 2013, at the Yale School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Gallery, in New Haven, Connecticut. The exhibition, encompassing works in all media and in every scale, presents some seventy pieces, all drawn from the personal collection of the artist and some rarely, if ever, exhibited. The selection spans Katz’s six-decade-long career as painter, draftsman, and printmaker, including examples of his signature mural-like canvases, as well as oil sketches, working drawings, collages, prints, and cut-outs. The exhibition is on view through March 10, 2013.

This selection will illuminate Katz’s unique and important place in postwar American art. Although never a Pop artist, his acutely observed, highly stylized, and virtuosically executed depictions of people, manners, and mores in the United States have increasingly made him the rival of Andy Warhol as this country’s most emblematic artist. And while his iconic, over lifesized faces anticipated Warhol’s celebrity portraits, Katz has always hewed closer to the painterly realism of such contemporaries as Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, and Philip Pearlstein. At the same time, his daring explorations of gesture and scale ally him with abstract artists of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Ellsworth Kelly.

Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art and curator of the exhibition, states, “At eighty-five, Alex Katz is, arguably, the freshest and most active of the New York School ‘Old Masters.’ The generous loan of these works from his personal collection embodies ‘Krème de la Krème Katz,’ while serving as a master class in unforgettable image-making.”

KATZ X KATZ is organized in a mosaic-like presentation, with thematic clusters of work of different types from different periods. Among early works are a self-portrait and view of his native St. Albans, Queens, and paintings and drawings made while studying at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, all of the early 1950s. Also on view are classic Soho cityscapes and glimpses of Katz’s artistic milieu of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and examples of his distinctive silhouette-like polychrome sculptures, long one of his specialties. Other highlights include portraits of artist and poet friends Rudy Burckhardt, Yvonne Jacquette, Edwin Denby, Allan Ginsburg, George Ortman, and Red Grooms, up until recent portraits of couples and including critics Brooks Adams and Lisa Liebman and Katz’s poet and translator son, Vincent Katz, and his wife Vivien, and, of course, Katz’s own wife and muse, Ada.

The son of Russian émigré parents, Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn in 1927. He received a B.A. (1949) from Manhattan’s Cooper Union Art School. However, it was his summers (1949-50) at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, whose teachers emphasized plein air painting and working from life, that were a transformative experience for the young artist, giving him, as he has stated, “a reason to devote my life to painting.” During the 1950s Katz allied himself with the group of avant-garde artists and writers who lived and worked in lower Manhattan, forging a distinctive style that was representational and wholly contemporary that has continued to evolve until today. In 1958 he married Ada del Moro, who would become the subject of numerous paintings. To date, he has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and has been represented in nearly 500 group shows internationally. He divides his time between studios in New York City and Lincolnville, Maine.

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