Alex Katz: Works from the Permanent Collection

  • Jul 23, 2006 – Oct 1, 2006
Alex Katz, "Ives Field II", 1964, oil on linen, 74 x 120 1/2 in.
Museum purchase with funds from Burlington Industries, 1965.

Some artists in the Weatherspoon's permanent collection have been collected 'in-depth,' meaning that the museum has acquired a variety of their work over time. This allows the museum to schedule 'focus shows,'—small exhibitions that feature one artist. In recent years, Eva Hesse, Warren Brandt, John Graham and Henri Matisse have been the subjects of one-person shows. The museum is now pleased to present the work of Alex Katz, an artist nationally recognized for his cool, crisp and highly distinctive style.

Alex Katz has often been classified with the Pop Art movement because of his use of bright color, flat shapes and oddly mechanical technique, one that seems derived from illustrations or even comic books. Yet, Katz was not concerned with popular culture in the way that Andy Warhol was. Katz does not draw his subject matter from the world of advertising, television, celebrity or commercial art. Instead, he has built a career around representing his friends, family, pets and flowers.

Among Katz's earliest influences were the abstract painters Mondrian and Miro. And, he was overwhelmed by the work of the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock: “Pollock dominated my vision, but I could see the landscape—subject matter—through his abstract work.” To better understand the basics of light and color, form and composition, Katz made small collages in the late '50s.

In 1960, he began working larger. The idea of using outsized scale was owed, in part, to his admiration for the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. In 1964, Katz painted Ives Field II, now owned by the Weatherspoon. In a 1979 issue of Artnews, this painting was rightfully called a “stylistic breakthrough” for Katz: it brought together his interests in constructing a realistic scene with general color, and yet a specific sense of light—what he called a “present tense” light.


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