The exhibition is the first major showing of Katz’s work in the UK since his retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery, in the autumn of 2016.
Alex Katz (b. New York, 1927) is known world-wide for his unique approach to contemporary representational painting, developed in reaction to the dominance of Abstract Expressionism, prior to the emergence of Pop Art in the USA. This exhibition will contrast over 50 intimate, delicate early pencil drawings with the artist’s latest works – a series of large-scale sculptures which beautifully reflect the artist’s formative early drawings.
As a student in 1940’s New York, Katz chose figures on the subway as his subjects, preferring them over the models in the Cooper Union Art School figure drawing studio. The exhibition opens with a selection of these touching drawings, which offer insight into post-war New York and those that lived there. Riding the subway into the early hours of the morning, sketching portraits of passengers, the subway in effect became Katz’s classroom.
The exhibition will also present two unseen sculptures – one of which is inspired by Katz’s wife, Ada – a recurring subject of Katz’s works. The 11-foot sculpture is a single line drawing of Ada’s profile: 60 years on, Katz’s works still relate to the clarity of line that he defined in his early subway drawings. Katz is currently working on a new selection of painting in Maine this summer, to join these works.
The contrast of early and late works in the exhibition illustrate the artist’s life-long pursuit to capture the present tense, through a highly accomplished but sparse line that has endured throughout his prolific career. Drawing serves as a crucial facet of the artist’s practice – a tool of immediacy that articulates Katz’s most essential images, across all the processes in which he engages.