Wednesday, March 23, 2011

pop art in Shanghai: Moganshan galleries

My favorite show at the Moganshan galleries was the “Alex Katz: Recent Paintings and Selected Prints” show at the James Cohan Gallery. His portraits have a strong pop-art, Andy Warhol-esqu influence, which I suppose isn’t too surprising since Katz is from New York City. His paintings aren’t nearly as commercial as Warhol’s silkscreens, but they share a few common traits. Both utilize a brightly colored, solid background and have one subject. Warhol’s subjects tended to be persons of interest: celebrities, political figures, pop stars, etc. While Katz’s subjects aren’t celebrities, they tend to be well-dressed and stylish women and men.
In particular, the subject of Ulla (2009) looks like the Venezualen fashion designer Carolina Herrera. Also, Blue Coat (Vincent) (1993) is a portrait of an exceptionally well dressed gentleman. These portraits capture a certain uptown attitude, yet convey downtown cool. I think it is the background which most effectively conveys the mood of the piece. Ulla has a harsh black background, which contrasts with the subject’s crisp, white button down. She looks at us straight on, hair slicked back into a tight chignon, hardly showing emotion. The self-portrait Black Hat (Alex) on the other hand features a cheery yellow background. Katz is seen smiling while wearing a black fedora, wayfarers and a pinstripe jacket—tres chic for an 84 year old!

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