Adam Baumgold Gallery presents the exhibition Alex Katz: Master Paintings and Drawings, from February 28 - April 18, 2015. The exhibition includes major works that were exhibited in Alex Katz’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1986; at Alex Katz: Small Paintings at the Addison Gallery of American Art, The Whitney Museum, and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 2001-2002; and at Alex Katz Paints Ada at the Jewish Museum in New York in 2006.
Featured in the exhibition is Alex Katz’s seminal painting Bather, 1959. In Bather Katz’s enigmatic, constant muse, his wife Ada, stands front and center in a continuous field of water and sky. Bather, with its shift to a larger scale and its focus on a single figure, marks an important turning point in Katz’s development. This succinct painting clearly relates to the artist’s early collages, which “suggested to Katz the idea of a figure removed from the surface of a painting and the background.”(Alex Katz. Richard Marshall. 2 Alex Katz. Richard Marshall. 3 Alex Katz: A Retrospective. Irving Sandler) In his early masterwork Ada in a Pillbox Hat, 1961, which was exhibited at the Whitney and Jewish Museums, Katz transforms Ada into Jackie Kennedy, with stirring effect.
The exquisite graphite drawings Ada in Polka Dot Blouse, Ada in Coat, Anne II, and Julia, included in the exhibition, offer prime examples of Katz’s move to a more aggressive, close-up format, where faces frequently dominate the composition “simultaneously [recalling] billboard advertising in which cropping acts to thrust forms forward dramatically for the sake of visual impact, and Degas’s paintings, in which cutoff images suggest ‘that a world existed outside of the picture frame.”3 All these drawings were included in Alex Katz: A Drawing Retrospective at the Museum of Art, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Colby College Museum of Art, and the Arkansas Art Center from 1991-92.
In the large painting The Yellow House, 1982, Katz brings this tension to a landscape. Painterly brushstrokes form a sharply cropped and flattened, verdant hillside in the foreground, and in the background a yellow house is similarly abstracted. Between these strong geometric shapes, Katz has sandwiched a leafy tree.
Katz often arrives at his larger paintings through a series of smaller, painterly studies, which inform the working process for the larger paintings. Among the small-scale paintings in this exhibition are two small studies for Yellow House, and two studies for Swimmer, plus other portraits of Vincent and Vivien. Alex Katz has been a monumental force in American and International art for over 50 years.