Saturday, March 26, 2011

Alex Katz: Recent Paintings and Selected Print

by Elizabeth Wu
Alex Katz: Recent Paintings and Selected Prints opened with a
reception at the James Cohan Gallery on Friday evening. The intimate
opening was attended by a handful of Shanghai art enthusiasts, mostly
Americans who showed up to support the congenial Brooklyn
born-and-bred pop artist.
The small exhibit of about five large paintings and eight small prints
is tucked away in an exquisite French Concession relic of the colonial
period with deep mahogany floors and soaring ceilings. The spare
gallery is the perfect setting for Katz's brilliantly straightforward
portraits. One of the most arresting paintings is a portrait of
Katz's wife of over fifty years, Ada. Draped in a wooly evergreen
shawl, Katz captures Ada's glance, under her eyelids seemingly heavy
with fatigue, is solemn, almost wistful, and teeters just on the edge
of sorrow. Her jet-black hair is streaked with gray and her peach
lips are gently pursed.
A feature common to all of Katz's portraits is how he paints his
subjects' eyes. The expression is difficult to decipher – a curious
mixture of ambivalence, concern, joy, and despair. Katz accomplishes
this by painting his subjects' eyes so that although the subject is
facing the viewer, the gaze is slightly askew, like the subject is
glancing just beyond the viewer's shoulder.
The one exception to this rule is Katz's self-portrait. Set against a
glowing dandelion background, Katz dons a black jacket, black top hat,
and a pair of oversized sunglasses. Though his eyes are hidden, his
expression is the easiest to decode. His lips curled up on the end,
Katz is beaming widely, basking in the golden sunlight of the canvas.

No comments: