Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s

April 30, 2017 - August 6, 2017

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

One of the most acclaimed artists working today, Alex Katz (b. 1927) surprised the American art world during the 1950s with his refreshingly innovative approaches to painting portraits, landscapes, and still lifes. The first museum survey of these pathbreaking works, Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s showcases more than 70 key loans from public and private collections.

The exhibition’s title derives from his early manifesto announcing his intentions to invigorate traditional artistic subject matter. Creating work at a time when abstract painting dominated the art scene, Katz forged an ingenious way to wed abstraction with recognizable imagery by paring down his compositions to their most fundamental elements. In retrospect, these works prefigured the subsequent development of Pop Art.

At this time Katz also began making collages from watercolored paper, inspired in part by the cut-paper constructions of Henri Matisse. Intimate in scale and delicate in construction, these works formed a distinctive body of work that complemented his larger paintings. By the late 1950s, Katz adapted this technique to invent his freestanding or wall-mounted “cutouts,” a revolutionary blending of painting and sculpture.

Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s is organized by the Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine, and curated by Katz Curator Diana Tuite.


Banner Image: Alex Katz, Bather (detail), 1959. Oil on linen, 121.9 x 182.9 cm. Colby College Museum of Art. Museum purchase made possible by Peter and Paula Lunder through the Lunder Foundation, Michael Gordon ’66, Barbara and Theodore Alfond through the Acorn Foundation, and the Jere Abbott Acquisitions Fund, 2016.189. Art © Alex Katz / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.