Alex KATZ | The Flowers Portfolio
For over six decades, Alex Katz has found inspiration in all types of flowers, transforming wind-blown tiger lilies, marigolds, roses, and petunias into iconic works of Pop art. In the 1950s, Katz grew frustrated that his signature minimalist portraits lacked a sense of movement, so he began painting the wildflowers he discovered near his summer home in Maine. Over time, Katz’s floral renditions became more vibrant and alive, often featuring stems growing in every direction, petals cascading through the air, and leaves scattered across the composition.
“You can’t look at any one thing for any length of time, your eye is moving all over the place in continuous motion,” he explained.
With flat planes of rich, lovely color, Alex Katz’s landscapes evoke the smooth aesthetics of advertising billboards and film. Pulling out only the essential visual components of his surroundings, Katz delivers nature to the viewer in a seemingly raw power stroke of austere absolutes.
Flat, illustrative qualities are married with hard-edged accessories and minimal modeling techniques. At its core, a subtractive methodology by the artist allows him to edit out the visual noise and concentrate visually on the essential key elements of his art.
Goldenrod, a 35 x 47 inch print on Innova Etching Cotton Rag 315 gsm paper illustrates a Japanese-esque aesthetic—a pictorial definition of space with a philosophical sophistication; an allurement that was even once mentioned by the Tate Collection in reference to Katz’s work. Goldenrod is a darker color palette print that encompasses aspects of this Japanese style. Quick whips of stil de grain yellow place the leaves on the defined stems as our eyes move diagonally along the flora.
These flowers, enveloped in a threnodial temperament, are three slant verticals, vehicles that enable the upward sweep of color to define space, while the blackness volleys for physical presence. Appearing flat, the spatial definitions are in the inferred relationships between the foreground and background.
Seemingly rich in contextual artistic history, Katz has described a time when he was trying to capture the essence of time passing, making painting sketches in fifteen minutes, right before dusk fell.
At first glance, the stoic renditions of these various flowers presented in the new series, Alex Katz: The Flowers Portfolio are poised as immovable objects taking center stage, but further investigation suggests the laconic botany to be more fragile as the unseen winds tear off leaves and create a fluttering sense of dynamism.
Katz studied at Cooper Union in New York and spent a summer learning plein air painting at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture before he began presenting regularly in New York and cities across the world. His work has been included in shows at institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the Fosun Foundation in Shanghai, among others.
His work belongs to multiple public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Tate.