Alex Katz To Be Subject and Curator of Colby College Museum of Art Exhibitions

June 13, 2012

For decades American painter Alex Katz has split his time between New York City and Maine. From July 14 through Dec. 30, 2012, the Colby College Museum of Art, which holds the world’s largest collection of Katz’s work, will present an exhibition focusing on the themes of the city and the country in Katz’s work from the 1950s to the present.

Drawn from the Colby Museum’s collection and loans, Alex Katz: Maine/New York is curated by the New York poet and critic Carter Ratcliff, an expert on Katz’s work. The exhibition will include 28 paintings and one multipart sculpture and will be accompanied by a catalog published by Charta and the Colby College Museum of Art.

Katz’s connection to Maine dates to 1949, when he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His relationship with Colby began a few years later.

A quintessential New York artist, Katz is also a summer resident of Lincolnville, Maine. Thus his subject matter varies widely, from landscape to cityscape, from rural vignette to Manhattan interior. A master of urban portraiture at its most elegant, he also paints “portraits” of trees and flower-strewn meadows. Whatever his subject, Katz – a painter of atmosphere – evokes the distinctive light of a particular time and place.

In Alex Katz: Maine/New York, the viewer will be immersed in the haze of a city afternoon, the flickering green light of a rural path, the glare of a fashionable event, the dusk as it descends on a pond in the Maine woods. At every step are encounters with the remarkable people who populate Katz’s paintings. Members of his family, friends, and others who might be described as iconic figures represent the large themes that shape this artist’s world – night and day, city and countryside.

A special installation of the Colby Museum’s permanent collection, selected and arranged by the artist, will complement the exhibition. This exhibition, Interior Visions: Selections from the Collection, will be on view from July 14 through Oct. 7, 2012 and is the third installment of theRediscoveries exhibition series. Rediscoveries invites members of the Colby community to offer new perspectives on the permanent collection. Interior Visions will be accompanied by a catalog featuring an introductory essay by critic Sanford Schwartz and poems by John Godfrey and Jim Brodey.

After graduating from Manhattan’s Cooper Union in 1949, Katz quickly found his way to the New York art world. While most of his contemporaries were following the path blazed by Willem de Kooning, Katz took a different direction. A highly accomplished draftsman, Katz possesses a refined command of his materials. He has transformed the openness of the all-over image, which is usually abstract, into the large scale and striking immediacy of a major realist style. This transformation, along with Katz’s telling eye for detail, is demonstrated by the paintings in this exhibition.

Guest Curator Carter Ratcliff is a poet and art critic who has lived in New York since 1967 and has been writing about Alex Katz for almost as long. His publications include Alex Katz(Phaidon, 2005), Out of the Box: The Reinvention of Art, 1965-1975 (Allworth Press, 2000),Alex Katz: Cutouts (Cantz Verlag, 1997), and The Fate of Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Post-War American Art (1996, Farrar, Straus, Giroux).

A fully illustrated catalog of the same title accompanies the exhibition. This book includes an essay by curator Carter Ratcliff on the career of Alex Katz and an interview with Alex Katz by Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator Sharon Corwin. Published in 2012 by Edizioni Charta s.r.s., Milano, and distributed by Distributed Art Publishers, New York, it will be available for purchase at the Colby Museum during the exhibition.

Film Festival Screening
In collaboration with the Maine International Film Festival and Waterville Main Street, the museum will present three films on Alex Katz and his work. This special, free event will take place July 15 at 7 p.m. at Common Street Arts, located at 20 Common Street, Waterville. The films to be screened are Alex Katz Painting (1978, 28 mins.), Alex Katz: Five Hours (1996, 21 mins.), and Alex Katz: What About Style? (2003, 56 mins.).

Biography of Alex Katz
Alex Katz was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in St. Albans, Queens. From 1946 to 1949 he studied at the Cooper Union in New York City. Katz’s connection with Maine began in 1949, when he received a Cooper Union scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. The school’s cofounder, Colby Museum benefactor Willard Cummings, introduced the artist to Colby in the 1950s, and Katz has continued his relationship with the College while a longtime summer resident of Lincolnville, Maine. Katz received an honorary doctorate from the College in 1984, has served on several museum committees, and currently serves on the Colby Museum’s board of governors. Katz is known for work that displays a shallow visual space, highlighting the two-dimensional nature of paintings. Though many of his works are portraits, he does not aspire to reproduce authentic physical features or personalities. Rather, these figures are treated as symbols and serve as vehicles for exploring the formal aspects of picture-making.

Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz
Alex Katz is one of the most important American artists of our time, and his impressive body of work constitutes a unique aspect of modern realism. In 1992, Katz donated more than 400 of his works to the Colby College Museum of Art. The Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz, which opened in 1996 and presents ongoing selections from the Katz Collection, was made possible through the generosity of then Colby trustee Paul J. Schupf. The Schupf Wing makes the Colby Museum one of the few in the United States with a wing devoted solely to the work of a single living artist. Schupf has also given a number of important works by Katz, including the large-scale painting Pas de Deux, an iconic painting from 1983, in honor of Hugh J. Gourley III, director emeritus of the museum. Colby’s collection now includes nearly 700 Katz works. Archive material related to the Katz Collection is held by Colby’s Special Collections and is available to students and researchers by appointment.

Colby College Museum of Art
Founded in 1813, Colby College in Waterville, Maine, has one of the finest college museums in New England. The Colby College Museum of Art, formally established in 1959, now comprises four wings, more than 7,000 works of art, and over 28,000 square feet of exhibition space. It holds a significant permanent collection that specializes in American and contemporary art. An active exhibition schedule includes works form the permanent collection and scholarly shows, such as American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White, organized with the Amon Carter Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas, and presented in 2010-2011. The Colby College Museum of Art is accredited by the American Association of Museums. The museum is currently undergoing an ambitious expansion of its facilities led by Frederick FIsher & Partners Architects.

The Colby College Museum of Art is free and open to the public. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday.