Alex Katz, Gray Ribbon, 1990, Signed, Screenprint on Arches Roll Stock, Edition 150, 27 3/5" × 36" Sheet Size, 27 3/5" × 36" Image Size
Alex Katz (born July 24, 1927) is an American figurative artist. In particular, he is known for his ever evolving paintings, sculptures, and prints. Katz achieved great public prominence in the 1980s. He is well known for his large paintings, whose bold simplicity and heightened colors are now seen as precursors to Pop Art. To a great degree, Katz's distinction lies in the fascinating dialogue he developed between realism and more abstract tendencies in modernism. Katz studied undergrad at Cooper Union where he was exposed primarily to modern art and was taught to paint from drawings. He spent his summers at Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture where he was exposed to painting from life, which would prove pivotal in his development as a painter and remains a staple of his practices today. Katz explains that Skowhegan's plein air painting gave him "a reason to devote my life to painting." In the late 1950s, he began to develop his mature style, one characterized by elegance, simplicity, and stylized abstraction. Committed to depicting recognizable motifs, Katz minimizes details and shading, choosing instead to summarize his subjects with the help of bold contours, blocks of color, and strategic swipes of the brush. Working on paintings from photographs prompted Katz to consider the development of a modern approach to figurative painting, which was then considered old-fashioned. He created balance between the traditional and contemporary. In 1957, Katz met Ada del Moro at a gallery opening. They married in the next year, and Ada became the most frequent subject of his paintings. Media and commercial culture played an important role in Katz's work of the 1960s, which drew from film, television, and billboard advertising. Katz also started making group portraits, which continued to dominate his body of work throughout the 1970s. Today, Katz' art stands as a representative of a happy embrace of realism in the face of movements that questioned the fundamentals of realism.