Alex Katz 1927 –

Alex Katz began making prints in the 1950s and ’60s. He began by creating etchings, woodcuts and stencils at the Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in Chelsea.

The workshop was opened in 1947 by artist, teacher and master printmaker, Robert Blackburn. Blackburn died in 2003, at age 83. The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts has kept the workshop running, “to serve a culturally diverse artistic community” and  “to expand the creation, understanding and collection of fine art prints.”

Katz said that he likes the ‘technical stuff’ that printmaking entails. In mid-century America, many people used calendar art as wall art and fine art prints were not part of mainstream culture. Alex Katz wanted to change that. “Basically what that means is making images that can stay on the wall rather than in a little box under a bed.” he said. “I mean, people usually kept prints in boxes or put them in hallways, and I was interested in making a print that could really take the place of a painting. That would have wall power.”

He has certainly succeeded. Katz has mastered the creation of fine art prints. He says that some take as long as a year to make. His overlaying of colors and tones is just one of the features that make his work so unique and recognizable.

Two recent acquisitions at VFA are Alex Katz’s Straw Hat Vivien and Vivien with Hat, both made in 2021, exemplify his wonderful use of color.

After graduating from Cooper Union in  1949, Katz studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. It was there that he was exposed to plein-air painting and learned to work with the immediacy of what was in front of him.

One of his greatest gifts is being able to translate the immediacy of what he sees onto a canvas. Katz calls that “the initial shock of seeing.”

He draws and paints landscapes with the same awe and immediacy as he paints and draws his figures. In a review of the recent book about the artist, edited by his son, poet Vincent Katz, with an essay by art historian Carter Ratcliff, artist and writer Tom McGlynn wrote, “The result is that his depictions of persons , places, and things take on an immemorial grandeur. The fact that the artist had located this scale of being, basically in his own backyard, is his signal achievement. Every so often Katz will dip into a higher social register (of pop cultural royalty) in his choice of sitters. Examples here include the likes of the actress Tilda Swinton and model Christy Turlington, both significantly sans makeup. Yet he tends to reduce even such glamorous subjects to fabulous paintings, rather than depend upon fabulous subjects to create glamorous paintings.”

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is getting ready for a retrospective of Alex Katz’s work planned to run from October 14, 2022 to February 20, 2023.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the fine art prints and sculptures, and recent volume, of Alex Katz’s works, available at VFA.


References:
Tom McGlynn. Alex Katz. The Brooklyn Rail. September 2021.
Andrew M. Goldstein. Alex Katz on “Distilling Art to Its Essence”. Artspace. August 14, 2012.