September 21, 2023


How Art Works

Gathering on the Guggenheim – The Artsology Weblog

4 min read
Alex Katz Guggenheim exhibition
View of the Alex Katz: Gathering exhibition on the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.

Regardless of opening final October, I simply received round to seeing the Alex Katz retrospective titled “Alex Katz: Gathering” on the Guggenheim final week. The present closes on February twentieth, so I needed to place this on the market immediately – if you may get over to the Guggenheim within the subsequent few days, it’s a superb present to see. On a facet be aware – in the event you want another excuse to get to the Guggenheim, the concurrent present “Nick Cave: Forothermore” is implausible – extra on that present later, because it’s up via April tenth.

However again to Alex Katz, the time period “retrospective” is completely utilized right here, because the present covers eight a long time of labor. That’s fairly wonderful, don’t you suppose? Katz is at present 95 years previous, and a number of the earliest items within the present embody some drawings from 1946 and a canvas from 1948, when he was 21 years previous. The total present consists of work, oil sketches, collages, prints, and freestanding “cutout” works, that are enjoyable to see, for the reason that folks painted and introduced as cutouts are roughly life-sized. Talking of which, I’ve included an set up shot beneath which options the portray “Muna” at left, and a double-portrait cutout titled “Francesco” at proper, which depicts the Italian artist Francesco Clemente. You may’t see the complete cutout on this image, however the double Francescos each are full-bodied and free-standing, supported upright on a metallic base which sits flat on the ground.

Alex Katz painting and cutout at the Guggenheim
“Muna,” 1990 (left), and “Francesco,” 1992 (proper), by Alex Katz on view on the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.

The exhibition title of “Gathering” has a number of meanings: 1, it references the examine of the seen world as described within the 1951 poem “Salute” by James Schuyler, who was a good friend of the artist; 2, it’s the plain description of this assortment of his life’s work being gathered collectively on the Guggenheim; and three, many of the topics in these work are his private mates, and replicate a gathering of mates. However one may argue that he has a unusually fascinating and distinguished assortment of mates, as many are important figures in a twentieth century “who’s who” of poets, artists, dancers, musicians, and critics, together with Frank O’Hara, Robert Rauschenberg, Paul Taylor, LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka), Joe Brainard, Kynaston McShine, Anne Waldman, John Ashbery, Meredith Monk, Allen Ginsberg, Mariko Mori, Invoice T. Jones, and Joan Jonas, amongst others.

One other frequent topic of Alex Katz’s portraits is his spouse Ada, who has appeared in over one thousand work of their 65 years of marriage. That’s simply outstanding, each 65 years of marriage and being the topic of over a thousand work! Under is “The Pink Smile,” 1963, and it brings up some factors I’d wish to make. I’ve loved seeing Alex Katz’s work reproduced in books and on-line for years, and whereas one may argue that they appear fairly easy in fashion from these reproductions, seeing them in particular person exhibits a lot extra (doesn’t it at all times?). The shadows, the streaks of coloration within the hair, these and different particulars could be appreciated a lot extra seeing them in particular person and up shut. And naturally the dimensions – seeing a portray like this that measures roughly 7 x 10 ft, in comparison with small reproductions in books – it’s a completely completely different viewing expertise. 7 x 10 ft places it on a scale just like many summary expressionist work, which Katz was very conversant in, since he was doing his personal work on the similar time these artists have been dwelling and dealing. The critic Carter Ratcliff as soon as wrote: “Appropriating the monumental scale, stark composition and dramatic gentle of the Summary Expressionists, he would beat the heroic technology at their very own sport,” and Katz himself added: “It was an open door, nobody was doing representational portray on a big scale” at the moment within the Nineteen Fifties.

Alex Katz The Red Smile at the Guggenheim
“The Pink Smile,” 1963, by Alex Katz, on view on the Guggenheim Museum.

One little facet be aware on this portray: as I used to be standing there, spending a while observing it and taking within the grand scale up shut, I seen one thing I haven’t seen on a Katz work earlier than, not less than not that I can recall: two little drips of blue paint within the part of hair above the precise collar. They appear to be accidents, as all the things else is so clearly delineated and clear. I’m not a Katz scholar by any stretch, but it surely was a small element that I discovered fascinating to catch.

In case you’d wish to be taught extra about Alex Katz and this present, check out the Guggenheim’s press release here.

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