Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes 1951–1995

Apr 26–Jun 21, 1998


P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is pleased to present Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes 1951—1995, the first retrospective of landscape works by the American artist Alex Katz. Curated and organized by P.S.1's Executive Director, Alanna Heiss, this exhibition premiered in June 1996 at the Baltimore Museum of Art and has traveled to The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida and the Portland Museum, Portland, Maine. P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center will be the only New York venue for this remarkable exhibition which focuses on the last forty-four years of Katz's landscape paintings and includes collages and drawings. The exhibition opens with a celebratory reception on Sunday, April 26, 1998, 12:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Also in celebration of the exhibition, The Art Store is pleased to present a special preview event at P.S.1 on Saturday, April 25 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. The Art Store - as part of its commitment to supporting artists and providing them with the largest variety of high quality art supplies - is proud to participate in supporting Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes 1951-1995. Opened in November 1997, The Art Store carries more than 30,000 art materials housed in a landmark 1880s cast-iron building located at 1-5 Bond Street in New York City.

While best known for his bright, billboard-size portraits, Katz has been painting landscapes since his first solo exhibition in 1954. Featuring thirty-eight large-scale paintings and twelve collages, Alex Katz Under the Stars represents all aspects of the artist's landscape painting, ranging from woodland and beach scenes in Maine—where Katz spends his summers—to the urban panoramas of New York City.

While studying at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine between 1949 and 1950, Katz developed an interest in landscapes, inspiring him to paint from the direct observation of nature, creating spontaneous compositions saturated in atmospheric light.

In the late 1950s, Katz rejected the Abstract Expressionist style and embraced the classical tradition of realist painting in which he executed his noteworthy paintings of the 1960s and 1970s. Through these works, Katz refined his distinct style of presenting subject matter in a straightforward manner by manipulating light and dark surfaces against patterned backgrounds often marked by close compositional crops or the alteration of close-ups and wide-angle views. This second period in Katz's artistic development produced eight of the exhibition's works, characterized by grand scale, simplified images, and rich color. Works on view at P.S.1 include Twilight (1972) from the collection of Colby College Museum of Art and October #1 (1962) courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, among others.

The majority of paintings displayed in Alex Katz Under the Stars represent Katz's recent work, completed in the last fifteen years. In works such as Thick Woods, Morning (1992) and View (1987), both courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, the viewer can distinguish an evolving level of abstraction, which recalls the artist's gestural roots. Katz's experimentation with extreme landscape close-ups results in fuzzy, out of focus treatments, prominently different from his realistic style of the 1960s and 1970s. This group of later works shows Katz's affinity for choreographing nature and stylizing the world around him to the extent that one feels that each tree, bird or building could exist only in one of his distinctive paintings.

In addition to paintings, Alex Katz Under the Stars also features twelve collages, eleven of which were created in the 1950s. These works stand apart from collages produced by other artists in the '50s because of Katz's use of matte, hand-colored, cleanly cut paper rather than the diverse materials characteristic of this period. Though his style would evolve through the next three decades, Katz's earliest landscapes already demonstrate his remarkable mastery of light, which he continued to cultivate as his career progressed.

Alex Katz was born in New York in 1927. Before attending the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Katz studied at the Cooper Union Art School from 1946 to 1949. He has exhibited extensively in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan; recently showing at I.V.A.M Centro Julio Gonzalez, Valencia, Spain; the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany; and the Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan. In 1986, The Whitney Museum, New York, presented a retrospective show of the artist's work. Katz is represented in numerous permanent collections including The Saatchi Collection, London, the Alex Katz wing of the Colby College Museum of Art, Maine, as well as in the permanent collections of over forty museums. He joined Marlborough Gallery in 1973, where he has had twelve one-man shows. Alex Katz lives and works in New York City and Maine.

A fully-illustrated 100-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition and includes an interview with Katz by curator Alanna Heiss and essays by Simon Schama and David Hickey. Thirty-two color and 20 black-and-white reproductions of Katz's landscape paintings illustrate the essays and document the exhibition.

After the highly successful October 1997 reopening on P.S.1's renovated exhibition space, Alex Katz Under the Stars is the ideal show to underscore the unique characteristics of the newly redesigned third floor galleries and the historic ‘rooms’ galleries on the first floor as well as the entire building which make P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center one of the largest facilities for contemporary art in the world.

Alex Katz Under the Stars: American Landscapes 1991-1995 was organized by P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center under the direction of Alanna Heiss. Major funding for the exhibition has been provided by The National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, The Art Store and Marlborough Gallery, New York.



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