Alex Katz: Small Paintings

Nov. 7, 2017-Apr. 8, 2018
Boca Raton Museum of Art

Alex Katz: Small Paintings presents a fascinating though less explored side of the artist’s practice by exhibiting Katz’s small paintings alongside his iconic large and distinct canvases. The small works present an alternative perspective to the artist’s larger and more familiar works and reveal a side to his process that is highly gestural and instinctive. Organized by the Boca Raton Museum of Art, this exhibition features small-scale paintings juxtaposed with two major large-scale works. 

Alex Katz was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York, and from 1946 to 1949 studied painting at the Cooper Union. He later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting. Having begun his career at the end of the 1950s, during the height of Abstract Expressionism, Katz developed an original, realist style of painting – a unique and highly stylized aesthetic. 

Widely known for his large-scale paintings, Katz began working on a small-scale early in his career as a reaction to the larger works of his predecessors. It wasn’t until 1962, after working for over a decade, when he transitioned to painting on much larger canvases. Throughout his career, now spanning more than 60 years, Katz has continuously produced small paintings.  The small paintings can be thought of as preparatory sketches or studies. While autonomous in their own right, they often serve as a starting point or a draft for his larger works.

The small paintings have a powerful visual presence with nuanced subtleties of texture, color, and form. The details in the brush strokes on this intimate scale invite the viewer to establish a closer physical and spatial relationship to the work. The small paintings were crucial in the early stages of Katz’s career, while the artist developed and refined his style, and have remained a part of his vigorous practice for decades. Though some approach abstraction, particularly the landscapes and cityscapes, the works are integral to understanding Alex Katz’s body of work.

 

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Alex Katz: Small Paintings

Alex Katz, Vivien, 2015, 16 x 12 in., Oil on board. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome. Art © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. www.vagarights.com