Alex Katz (*1927 in New York) is one of the most important American artists of our time. He is a central figure of the American self-reflexive painting tradition, for which the assonance of rationality, sensuality and abstraction is characteristic. The artist depicts seemingly dispassionate motifs from the life of the New York intellectual and art scene and the well situated leisure society in an iconic fashion in monumental formats. Another focus is on the representation of simultaneously immediate and unapproachable natural idylls of Maine in the north-eastern United States. On the occasion of his most recent gift of 60 works, the Albertina is presenting its entire collection of drawings and cards, as well as a selection of the paintings of Alex Katz.
Metro sketches of the 1940s, landscapes sketches from 1950 to the present, party sketches from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as beach sketches of the 1990s make clear that Alex Katz is already thinking like a painter while observing "in front of the motif". He grapples optically with the reality, works out the mood of the place and the light and records the fashionable perfection and the gestures of the figures typical of the time.
One can ultimately call the large-format, and in themselves complete "Finished Drawings" "paintings in black and white". In the around 20 portrait drawings of New York "Professional People" created between 1980 and 2000, Alex Katz achieves a long-distance effect of the light, the valeur and the volumes of these flatly structured compositions that does not need to hide itself behind the paintings. He consciously chooses techniques that force him to a reduction down to a few details and surfaces. The resonance of the empty paper space of these drawings can be compared with that of the monochrome areas of the paintings.
Around a dozen cards, giant sheets of packing paper, with the help of which Alex Katz transfers the outlines of his motifs to the empty canvas, are impressive witnesses to their one-time function as work materials. Here is where the artist pursues the reduction of the motif to its outline to the greatest extent.
In his paintings, Alex Katz achieves this "cool" aesthetic of an immediate present, which he has found in the observation of light and surfaces while drawing. The liveliness of the expressive line of the previous drawings is maintained, reduced and perfected by the various transfer techniques, in the gestural painting style of the paintings.