Past exhibition

Alex Katz – Bigger Is Better

10.03.2019 – 28.04.2019

The American artist Alex Katz is internationally regarded as one of the outstanding figures of contemporary painting. His art is located between abstraction and figuration, which makes it impossible to consider his style just one-dimensional. Often related to Pop Art, he sees himself more as an abstract painter. With his paintings, drawings and prints Katz is a master of the New York lifestyle and has created a comprehensive oeuvre of great individuality. The immediacy of the representation, his portraits reduced to the mere essence, and the “coolness” of the figures are typical features of his timeless painting, a “painting of the contemporary form,” as he himself puts it. Katz is primarily concerned with his immediate environment: his muse and wife Ada, his son and his friends, as well as surrounding landscapes. Fashion, dance and advertising play a special role in his work, which never shied away from overcoming the traditional boundaries of the so called “high art”. This is where Alex Katz is most akin to Pop Art.

Alex Katz was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York, as son of Russian emigrants. From 1946 to 1949 he studied painting at the renowned New York Cooper Union Art School. In the 1950s, Katz was already well connected to the abstract-expressionist New York School. Among his close friends were artists such as Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, and the photographer Rudolf Burckhardt. Katz had his first solo exhibition at the Roko Gallery in 1954. From 1955 he also produced his first small collages, which leads later to his cut-out pictures. In the early 1960s, Alex Katz produced his first large-format paintings, often with radically cut faces as a result of his involvement with poster advertising, film, and television. He increasingly found his way to a flat, often strongly glazed painting with clearly contoured figures or landscapes against a monochrome background. Like in “Close-ups”, he draws the portrayed figure close and direct as possible to the viewer.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Alex Katz’s international breakthrough came as a painter of fashion, dance and glamorous New York. Alex Katz also focused on large-format landscapes, which he describes as “environmental”. The viewer gets the feeling, similar to the Impressionist painters, to be part of the surrounding nature, which seems reduced-minimalist but quite atmospherically charged.

Over 100 major museums and galleries own works by Alex Katz, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art; MoMA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C .; Albertina (Austria), Metropolitan Museum of Art (Japan), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Spain), National Gallery (Germany), Saatchi Collection (England) and the Tate Gallery (England).

The exhibition includes a section of his most important prints and thematizes some of his most impressive motifs. These are his iconic portraits of women, his muse and wife Ada, but also examples of his double and multiple portraits and multiple figure representations, which in turn capture cinematic sequences or movements. They culminate in the lately in 2018 completed “Coco-Cola-Girls”, which will be shown for the first time in the Ludwig Museum. This is paired with a selection of his large-format “Flowers” and few landscape motifs from Maine, where Alex Katz likes to spend the summer in his small house with family and friends. As printing technology, he prefers to use the “silkscreen” – as well as the woodcut method. The exhibition presents 45 large-format prints and some canvas works.


Accompanying the exhibition, N-TV produced the movie “Alex Katz – Icon of Pop Art”, which shows Alex Katz’s studio in Manhattan and the exhibition at the Ludwig Museum. It was kindly supported by Galerie Geuer & Geuer (Düsseldorf). The film will be broadcast on n-tv during the exhibition.
The exhibition was created in close collaboration with Alex Katz and his publisher Robert Lococo / Lococo Fine Art Publisher.

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