Alex Katz turns 85 this year, and it comes as no big surprise to his fans that the breezy cool figurative painter knows how to celebrate in style. From today until January 6, Austria's Essl Museum will host the country's largest ever exhibition of Katz's paintings, "Alex Katz," showing 30 still lifes, portraits and abstract paintings made over the past 30 years.
"Samantha, Joey and Yolanda Kluge," 1976
Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Katz attended the Cooper Union art school in the late 1940s. When Jackson Pollock and his splatter emerged in the 1949, Katz was one of few painters to resist the burgeoning trend of abstract expressionism. Instead he stuck with a style that resisted definition, floating between realism and abstraction, and becoming misunderstood in both worlds. Katz' work riffs off a Pop Art mentality, ogling the beauty of everyday life, and privileging surface over depth. "To me, the surface is where the whole thing is," he told an interviewer in an installment of the Tate Museum's studio visit series.
Katz often focuses on fashion and advertising, a field of study that has earned him the occasional frustrated critic. Writing in the Telegraph, Mark Hudson built his review of a new Katz show on the question of whether anything lies beneath Katz' admittedly lovely surfaces. "I’ve never been able to work out whether the art of Alex Katz is deceptively facile or simply facile," Hudson begins.
In his Tate studio visit, Katz compares a painting to wine in that, if done correctly, it will improve with age. What do you think, readers, will Katz's visions withstand the test of time? Let us know your opinion or just wish the artist a happy birthday in the comments below.
Alex Katz's exhibition will show from September 15 until January 6 at Essl Museum, Austria.