Art school celebrates Alex Katz

Over 200 visitors attended the show’s Tuesday night opening at 32 Edgewood.
Over 200 visitors attended the show’s Tuesday night opening at 32 Edgewood. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

The latest exhibition at the School of Art’s Edgewood Gallery celebrates American figurative artist Alex Katz in the largest display ever of his personally owned work.

“Katz x Katz,” curated by Robert Storr, dean of the School of Art and longtime friend of Katz, includes 70 works from Katz’s private collection, many of which have never been seen together before. The pieces include paintings, drawings, prints, cutouts and collages and aim to give an overview of Katz’s six-decade career.

“Alex has been around for a very long time, but is sort of taken for granted because he’s not known in-depth,” Storr said. “This is a good occasion in terms of a wider audience to remind people of what a substantial figure he is and also focus on him with a critical eye.”

The Tuesday night opening of the show attracted over 200 visitors from as far as New York and New Jersey. Guests ranged from undergraduate students who had never before seen Katz’s work to longtime friends and family members of the artist.

Katz’s work is arranged on the walls in a mosaic-like fashion, rather than in the single line typical in art galleries.

“All the different heights put [the work] in a different perspective,” said Keely Orgeman, an assistant curator at the Yale University Art Gallery who attended the opening. “You feel like you’ve stumbled upon his studio.”

Typical of Katz’s work are large painted portraits, and the show highlights the artist’s array of famous New York friends. Included are portraits of dancer Karole Armitage, poet Allen Ginsberg and writer Sanford Schwartz.

“There are all kinds of people but it’s not a ‘who’s who,’ it’s a way to describe a milieu that was really thriving and active and exciting,” Storr said.

Although Katz worked during the height of Abstract Expressionism at the same time as artists like Jackson Pollock, who pioneered “action painting,” Katz preferred figurative art, which depicts real objects rather than pure abstractions. Irving Sandler, an art critic and friend of Katz, said the artist did not employ a “painterly” style — the active brush strokes that characterized the mid-20th century — and instead had a more controlled style.

While the show is not explicitly didactic in purpose, the inclusion of smaller studies alongside larger paintings can help students visualize the entire creative process, Storr said.

“It’s hard to look away,” Njoki Gitahi ART ’14 said.

“Katz x Katz” runs until March 10 at 32 Edgewood Ave.

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