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Alex Katz: Cutouts

Alex Katz: Cutouts

Artists

Alex Katz
Timothy Taylor is pleased to announce an exhibition of cutout sculptures by American artist Alex Katz (b. 1927, Brooklyn, NY), located at the Smithson Plaza in St. James, London, as part of the ongoing public arts program curated by Encounter.

Internationally acclaimed for his enigmatic portraits of contemporary society and crisp, confident articulation of colour, Katz has often been compared to members of the Pop generation such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Yet his paintings revolve around a more classical design: the confrontation between visible reality and its reduction to a symbol. His cutouts, a body of work the artist has explored for over half a century, represent the fullest expression of Katz’s strategy. Figures become schematic, simplified forms, freezing moments experienced in present tense into an oblique and near-abstract timelessness. Clear yet complex, their features combine the illusions of painting with the spatial realism of sculpture.

Now in his sixth decade of working with cutouts, Katz shows us the remarkable range of a medium perfected over time. The exhibition consists of three portraits of his closest family members, inviting us into his inner world. Ada del Moro Katz, his wife and lifelong muse, appears twice, her beauty captured both as a wind-vane and a lifelike sculpture of her figure walking away from the viewer. Katz’s son Vincent Katz, drawn in elegantly monumental proportions, is caught in a mirrored outline of a fleeting embrace with his wife Vivien.

Now in his sixth decade of working with cutouts, Katz shows us the remarkable range of a medium perfected over time. The exhibition consists of three portraits of his closest family members, inviting us into his inner world. Ada del Moro Katz, his wife and lifelong muse, appears twice, her beauty captured both as a wind-vane and a lifelike sculpture of her figure walking away from the viewer. Katz’s son Vincent Katz, drawn in elegantly monumental proportions, is caught in a mirrored outline of a fleeting embrace with his wife Vivien.

Katz began the series by chance in 1959. Wanting to remove a background he was displeased with, he cut the central figure out of a painting and mounted it on a plywood panel hung on the wall. Later, the cutouts evolved into freestanding ‘picture sculptures’, painted directly on metal and carved out using a power saw. Each consists of a front and back, a discordant unease between images that echoes Katz’s long fascination with repeated images in paintings dating back to the 1950s. Moving beyond the principle of a painting as offering a window effect into another world, the cutouts’ shape express the physical immediacy of human presence while remaining highly abstract. Their narrow composition encourages the viewer to step close to the sculptures, to observe and walk around them as if they were part of the environment of the room, but their experimental picture planes relate to a painterly lineage of Cubism. Formally daring and optically surprising, the cutouts compress the balance between reality and artificiality in Katz’s work.

Alex Katz: Cutouts – Timothy Taylor