Alex Katz – In Good Company, is an exhibition consisting of a selection of original paintings & drawings, fine art prints, and other artworks by the American Icon, Alex Katz, on exhibit at New River Fine Art from January 20, 2023 – February 19, 2023. This timely exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of Katz’s style and his signature minimalistic aesthetic, while reflecting the artist’s continued experimentation with form and color with images that range from the 1970’s to today. The result is a curated exhibition that is timeless yet continuously feels fresh and refined.
Over the course of his more than seven-decade career, this championed American artist has created an impressive body of work that includes portraiture, landscapes, and still life. Alex Katz is renowned for his reductive aesthetic, and the artworks in the exhibition, In Good Company, display a great appreciation for his subtractive methodology. His inventive use of flat illustration with minimal use of modeling techniques, coupled with his deft navigation of hard-edged accessories, creates striking compositions to captivate viewers. Through this culling of complexity, he eliminates any superfluous elements from the environment, rendering an effective impact through signature painterly reductions.
Enzo Cucchi once wrote, “The sensuality of his [Katz’s] paintings return emotion to the skin.” This evocation can be seen in many of the artist’s portraits, especially in the iconic paintings of his wife and muse, Ada. Katz has painted her over 250 times, a dedication that is said to have formed the foundation of his artistic practice today.
The new Ada Print Portfolio has the artist revisiting some of his favorite paintings of his beloved spouse by creating ten new fine art prints that are featured in the exhibition. His works demonstrate skill in distilling her details down to their most fundamental elements - lips, eyes, and nose. He captures her individual traits without compromising her uniqueness. This recently published portfolio is a magnificent reminder of the all-encompassing love and devotion the artist has for his beloved wife. It is clear from the imagery that Katz cherishes every single moment shared with his partner, registering her nuances in his art and being able to freeze moments in time, canonizing Ada for all eternity.
The Sunrise suite, another print portfolio in Alex Katz – In Good Company, is composed of two bold and striking images that provide the perfect platform for the renowned artist to demonstrate his impressive ability to meld contrasting elements. The quintessential Katz image of “Sunrise 1” features refined and reduced elements, while the darker portrait, ‘Sunrise 2” is more compact and features distinct hard-edge definitions. Contrasting these two, it is possible to understand how opposition can be rendered into an integral part of something's identity. As seen in “Sunrise 1”, the female figure seems to be enjoying a sunny day, sporting a wide-brimmed purple hat. With its curved bill, it casts the perfect shadow over her eyes. The emptiness that exists beyond the portrait appear flat at first, but this pink void is in fact much richer than its two-dimensional facade may suggest, a space free from physical boundaries- existing beyond the picture plane. “Sunrise 2”, is an outstanding and a truly remarkable 8-color woodblock print. At a distance, the model’s eye is masked in darkness, but we soon discover a hidden, minimalistic wonderment. Only three black lines articulately define the subject’s pupil and eyelid, a definition that hoovers in the boxy shadow of her guise. There's something magnetic about this area that draws one in, its calming serenity remains imprinted on the viewer as a window into her soul.
Alex Katz' "Straw Hat 3" is an arresting work with its subject, a woman standing before us, is painted with delicate lines and subtle tonality, her visage made notably distinct from her surroundings by contrasting color palettes. Her skin, kissed with a slight tan, is complimented by her hat. By using a close-up of the model’s face with her eyes shut, the artist delivers a complex narrative that is simultaneously alluring but mysterious. A certain aura of austerity surrounds her. The stillness of his subject speaks louder than words, commanding admiration that roots its power in a quiet sophistication.
The model in the white sun visor anchoring the left side of the composition of Katz’s oversized print titled: “White Visor”, looks effortlessly sophisticated and confident. Her gracefully elongated and tilted neck immediately catches one's attention, while the tucked ponytail delicately accents her face, each giving an air of refinement. Her perfectly fashioned lips add a touch of stylish glamour. With a simple painted profile, the artist allows her to confidently gazes off into the distance, radiating an effortless grace that is truly captivating.
Original drawings in the exhibition include “Studies of Caroline” I & II, both 7 ¼ x 7 ¾ inch pencil on paper pieces. "Studies of Caroline" II highlights how even the most seemingly mundane aspects of life can be imbued with newfound importance through Katz’s artistry. The woman in the portrait is depicted close-up, her face occupying an acutely central position and mouth slightly agape. This slight touch reveals Katz's deep understanding of facial expression nuances. Through his distinctive stylization, he brings out subtleties that make the portrait utterly captivating. Comparing this work to its counterpart, "Studies of Caroline" I, allows one to appreciate the slightest changes between them, the neutral expression in II becomes more playful when contrasted against the solemnness of I, a testament to Katz's mastery in depicting a subject that at first appears commonplace. A single sketch of an eye, adjacent to the model in “Studies of Caroline" I shows devoted study to Katz’s own minimalistic analysis of subjects.
Alex Katz – In Good Company is a tour de force of impeccable selection, showcasing the signature minimalistic aesthetic of this iconic 95-year-old artist. Even at such an advanced age, Katz has shown no fatigue in experimenting with new techniques and creations. The works on exhibit offer a wide range, each a testament to the manifold beauty of Alex Katz's oeuvre. More than just evocative simplicity, his artistry offers complexity cleverly disguised by its deceptively uncomplicated forms – an impeccable selection that transcends generations and genres alike.