Alex Katz, Dancer 2, (2010), all images via Ulrich Ghezzi for Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.
Alex Katz takes on the subject of dance in a series of paintings, drawings, and cartoons on view at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. The show, titled “Face the Music”, runs until July 16th and features Katz’s signature figurative style. His dancers appear to be suspended in space, each caught in the moment of practicing. The gallery notes that his work lays “somewhere on the boundary between abstraction and realism” and these traits are easily seen in the portraits of the dancers.
It is hard to capture motion or movement without losing the effect; the body takes on various poses, muscles can be seen working under the skin, facial expressions shift. Katz is able to pay close attention to all of these elements, working with different colors to build-up the fine lines running down a dancers neck or back. The dancers look off to the side of the canvas while holding poses, or they are fixed on a point overhead, perhaps in mid-turn.
Their actions have been taken down into paint as though photographed. Each painting features a dark—almost black—background from which the painted dancers jump out vibrantly. This helps to place all of the attention on the figure and its position. Their features are soft but firm, and Katz has captured their unique expressions. His figurative style makes the dancers seem alive and moving.
Katz, considered a Pop artist, has produced work that is simple, clean and easy to understand but still able to provoke interest. His work tends to focus on two subjects: portraits and landscapes, and reflects on the process of creation—the brush-stokes and textures of built up paint are just as important as the physical features and faces of his subjects. His work has been described as smooth and sharp, a style that he has worked to maintain through the years.
In the 1960’s, Katz created sets for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. This partnership lead him to paint portraits of company dancers and their formations during routines. Katz returned to painting dancers in 2010, now turning his attention to the New York dance scene.