At the age of 94, Alex Katz is still painting, creating more works in his signature style of elevated coolness. The artist, who continues to paint between Pennsylvania, Maine and New York, marks his first exhibition this month with Gladstone Gallery, where he opens a show of 7 new landscapes that underscore his continued exploration and misery of light, space and balance.
Katz has long been known for his ability to draw subtle narrative and complex emotionality from often minimal compositions. Here, that mode takes center stage. First embarked on during the months of lockdown, the works on view here see Katz returning to his long investigation of rural scenes and landscapes. The mood here is somber and contemplative, echoing the timeframe in which the work was painted, but equally so from Katz’s smooth, elegant hand at work, creating tree branches and facades that bloom in deliberate, studied brushstrokes, all rendered in cold, dark hues, save for Yellow House, where the artist’s ability to zoom in close on details and then paint with a vigor and expressivity through his subjects is on full view.
It’s a striking chance to see Katz working in a mode that seems to take much of his past work and push it in new directions. Much in the same way that past work utilized color and space to eke additional energy from his scenes, these works so often seem to do the opposite, depicting dead tree branches and spare country scenes in washes of purple and grey, creating an additional layer of gloom and intensity. It’s what Katz has done best for so long, expressing interior natures and intensities with simple decisions: color, form, movement. Rather than rely just on the structure of the canvas for its messaging, here Katz dives into a world that’s equal parts element and atmosphere, realizing compositions that process the trauma of the past year through emotive, minimal gestures.
The artist’s work is on view through December 18th.
– D. Creahan
Alex Katz at Gladstone [Exhibition Site]