Alex Katz Reflections
5th April - 27th September 2009
by Alberto Fiz
Opening: Saturday 4th April 2009, 6 p.m.
The program of the MARCA, the Catanzaro Art Museum, offers a new significant
event: an exhibition that investigates the works of one of the greatest protagonists of
the American artistic scene.
Saturday the 4th of April 2009 (continuing until the 27th of September) the Museum
will host the Alex Katz personal display titled Reflections. The exhibition consists of
some of the artist's new great works focused on the key themes of his production:
portraits and landscapes.
The exhibition is designed by Alberto Fiz, the Director of the MARCA Museum and
promoted by the Culture Department (Assessorato alla Cultura) of the Province of
Catanzaro. The event is under the patronage of the Calabria Region, the Ministry for
the Cultural Assets and Activities (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali) and the
Directorate General for the Quality and Conservation of Environment, Architecture and
Contemporary Art (PARC).
"After the first display devoted to Mimmo Rotella's Lamiere, the MARCA Museum
introduces a wide international project that includes the works of one of the most
influential artists of these times", says Wanda Ferro, the President of the Province of
Catanzaro who is also active in the Ministry of Culture. The President explains that
"This important acknowledgement is indicative of the quality of a Museum which is
establishing itself as a leading institution on the Italian artistic scene. Moreover, I
believe the museum is crucial for the territory cultural development".
Alex Katz is a critical figure in the contemporary pictorial exploration. He stood out in
the mid-1950's for his opposition to the prevailing abstract Expressionism of the time
and for his anticipation of some of the Pop Art's styles.
His aloof, apparently distant and two-dimensional painting style tends to cancel the
difference between the figure and the background and elects an anti-narrative logic in
which everything passes through the lens of that particular transitory moment. This
attitude towards the image had a great influence on the pictorial movements of the
last two decades. It is no accident that the first artists to perceive his principles were
Francesco Clemente and Richard Prince, but also younger painters such as Gary Hume
and Marlene Dumas.
"I like to create images so simple that cannot be avoided and so complex that cannot
be grabbed", claimed Katz summarizing the paradoxical aspect of his research.
This completely innovative exhibition wants to focus on the most recent results of
Katz' research and to introduce a series of large-sized landscapes and portraits that
will be shown to the public for the first time in the MARCA Museum. These works of
art are born as reflections on painting. The artist does not describe the object directly,
but rather states its existence through its own reflection. This analysis identifies Katz'
path since his first landscapes of the 1950's. Light, shadows and reflections seem to
undertake their own course affecting the image that forms on the canvas.
"His Reflections develop in a physical way the theme of the reflected image; a theme
which fascinated aesthetics and literature since Narcissus and attracted masters like
Caravaggio, Tiziano, Velazquez and Monet", says Alberto Fiz. "Katz aims to describe
the natural phenomena in the act of becoming pure events in a universe that is
constantly changing. In doing so, he refuses any form of simple illusionism. The
objective instant of reality dominates as the only component of knowledge".
In other words, the artist offers us natural situations or figures who escape their own
direct presence. This results in a visual short-circuit that passes through the
awareness of the pictorial action. The image is far from this investigation
characterized by a scrupulous optic analysis in which the subject reveals itself
according to its projection in the space.
"Whatever happens, what I create is a phenomenon that completes on the painting
surface", stated Katz.
His poetics is particularly clear in this new cycle of works. The eighty-one-year-old
artist expresses an amazing creative vitality and deals with monumental and more
than 6-meters-long works of art.
While the landscapes are reflections, the figures are usually in profile and wear
glasses that hinder any observation and identification. Moreover, the subjects merge
with the abstract background that can be seen behind them like a texture.
One of the works displayed in Trio (Kristen, Sharon, Kym) in 2008 will be presented in
larger dimensions by the students of the Catanzaro Academy. The pupils will place a
mural decoration in the city following the mimesis and environmental painting
principles that have already been the subject of Katz' great installation of 1977 in
Times Square, New York.
The exhibition is guided by a comprehensive monographic catalogue in Italian and
English published by Electa with essays by Alberto Fiz and Vincent Katz. The catalogue
includes an interview with Alex Katz by Alberto Fiz and two conversations between the
American artist and Francesco Clemente and Richard Prince.
A part from the exposition of Alex Katz, until the 19th of April, the MARCA Museum
hosts Sottovuoto, the personal display of the Neapolitan artists Perino and Vele with a
wide selection of more than 20 works among which sculptures, installations, drawings
and projects of the past decade and a preview of their 2008 new works.
Alex Katz was born in 1927 in New York, where he studies painting. After his first one-
person show in 1954 at Roko Gallery in New York, he devotes himself to creating
paintings, drawings and collages and he finally faces the portrait in 1957 and large-
size paintings in 1962. His first retrospective is organized in 1971 by the Utah
Museum of Fine Arts. Afterwards, he will display his works regularly in many galleries
and in most renown American museums. In 1986, the Whitney Museum of American
Art devotes to Katz a wide traveling retrospective and in 1997 the PS1 Museum of
New York organizes the exhibition Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes
1951-1995. From 1996 the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville (Maine)
dedicates a wing of the building to 400 collages, prints and paintings on canvas
donated by Katz himself. In 2005 the collection gives life to the exhibition Alex Katz
Collages. The following year, in 2006, The Jewish Museum of New York displays Alex
Katz paints Ada 1957-2005, a one-person show devoted to his wife Ada, the inspiring
muse for many in his works. Only in 1995, the artist receives his first official
acknowledgement in Europe with a wide exposition organized by the Baden-Baden
Museum (Germany) and a retrospective at the IVAM Museum in Valencia the following
year. In January 1998, the Saatchi Gallery in London presents a one-person show
In 2002, the Kunsthalle in Bonn devotes to the artist a wide retrospective, while the
Kunsthalle in Hamburg presents his Cutouts: sculptures obtained, as the title
suggests, from aluminum cut-outs. In 2007, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin
organizes his one-person show New York.
The artist's first great personal show in Italy has been outlined in 1999 by the Galleria
Civica di Trento and in the Summer of 2003 the Bivilacqua trust La Masa in Venice
displayed Portraits: a selection of portraits from 1959 to 2003. His works of art are
collected in the most important American museums like the MoMa, the Metropolitan,
the Whitney in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and some European
museums among which the Tate Gallery in London and the Frankfurt Museum.