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Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series: Alex Katz

Alex Katz, artist, in conversation with Harry Cooper, senior curator and head of modern art, National Gallery of Art. Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927 and educated at Cooper Union. Although he fraternized in the 1950s with the abstract expressionists, Katz never embraced the gestural style popular in New York, clinging instead to some degree of observation. Yet if Katz's work has always celebrated the realism of quotidian life and landscape, it also incorporates the scale and structure of the ambitious abstract painting of his time. In 1968, Katz moved to an artists’ cooperative building in SoHo, where he has lived and worked ever since. Although he is best known for his figure paintings, often set in and around Manhattan, Katz is equally a painter of Maine, where he has summered for decades. Represented by 89 works in the Gallery’s collection, Katz’s career can be traced through generous gifts like Folding Chair (1959) and Isaac and Oliver (2013), and important acquisitions such as Swamp Maple (4:30) (1968). Most recently, he was commissioned to enhance Manhattan’s 57th Street/6th Avenue subway station interior with Metropolitan Faces, a series of his iconic, brightly colored portraits and flower paintings. Katz was also approved to place a series of cutout sculptures of his wife, Ada, on the median of New York’s Park Avenue. In this conversation held on March 9, 2019, as part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series, Katz and National Gallery of Art senior curator Harry Cooper discuss the genesis and evolution of Katz’s practice over 50 years.