Across eight decades of intense creative production, Alex Katz (b. 1927, Brooklyn, New York) has sought to capture visual experience in the present tense. “Eternity exists in minutes of absolute awareness,” Katz stated in 1961. “Painting, when successful, seems to be a synthetic reflection of this condition.” Whether evoking a glancing exchange between friends or a shaft of light filtered through trees, he has aimed to create a record of “quick things passing,” compressing the flux of everyday life into a vivid burst of optical perception.
Emerging as an artist in the mid-20th century, Katz forged a mode of figurative painting that fused the energy of Abstract Expressionist canvases with the American vernaculars of the magazine, billboard, and movie screen. Throughout his practice, he has turned to his surroundings in downtown New York City and coastal Maine as his primary subject matter, documenting an evolving community of poets, artists, critics, dancers, and filmmakers who have animated the cultural avant-garde from the postwar period to the present.
Staged in the city where Katz has lived and worked his entire life, and prepared with the close collaboration of the artist, this retrospective will fill the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda. Encompassing paintings, oil sketches, collages, drawings, prints, and freestanding “cutout” works, the exhibition will begin with the artist’s intimate sketches of riders on the New York City subway from the late 1940s and will culminate in the rapturous, immersive landscapes that have dominated his output in recent years.
Pictured: Installation view, Alex Katz: Gathering, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, October 21, 2022–February 20, 2023.Photo: Ariel Ione Williams and Midge Wattles © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.