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Alex Katz, Tracy On the Raft At 7:30, 1982, Oil on canvas, 120 in. x 72 in., Gift of the artist

For decades American painter Alex Katz has split his time between New York City and Maine. From July 14 through Dec. 30, 2012, the Colby College Museum of Art, which holds the world’s largest collection of Katz’s work, will present an exhibition focusing on the themes of the city and the country in Katz’s work from the 1950s to the present. Read a review in the Portland Press Herald.

Drawn from the Colby Museum’s collection and loans, Alex Katz: Maine/New York is curated by the New York poet and critic Carter Ratcliff, an expert on Katz’s work. The exhibition will include 28 paintings and one multipart sculpture and will be accompanied by a catalog published by Charta and the Colby College Museum of Art.

Katz’s connection to Maine dates to 1949, when he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His relationship with Colby began a few years later.

A quintessential New York artist, Katz is also a summer resident of Lincolnville, Maine. Thus his subject matter varies widely, from landscape to cityscape, from rural vignette to Manhattan interior. A master of urban portraiture at its most elegant, he also paints “portraits” of trees and flower-strewn meadows. Whatever his subject, Katz—a painter of atmosphere—evokes the distinctive light of a particular time and place.

In Alex Katz: Maine/New York, the viewer will be immersed in the haze of a city afternoon, the flickering green light of a rural path, the glare of a fashionable event, the dusk as it descends on a pond in the Maine woods. At every step are encounters with the remarkable people who populate Katz’s paintings. Members of his family, friends, and others who might be described as iconic figures represent the large themes that shape this artist’s world—night and day, city and countryside.

A special installation of the Colby Museum’s permanent collection, selected and arranged by the artist, will complement the exhibition. This exhibition, Interior Visions: Selections from the Collection by Alex Katz, will be on view from July 14 through Oct. 7, 2012 and is the third installment of the Rediscoveries exhibition series. Rediscoveries invites members of the Colby community to offer new perspectives on the permanent collection. Interior Visions will be accompanied by a catalog featuring an introductory essay by critic Sanford Schwartz and poems by John Godfrey and Jim Brodey.

After graduating from Manhattan’s Cooper Union in 1949, Katz quickly found his way to the New York art world. While most of his contemporaries were following the path blazed by Willem de Kooning, Katz took a different direction. A highly accomplished draftsman, Katz possesses a refined command of his materials. He has transformed the openness of the all-over image, which is usually abstract, into the large scale and striking immediacy of a major realist style. This transformation, along with Katz’s eye for the telling detail, is demonstrated by the paintings in this exhibition.

Guest curator Carter Ratcliff is a poet and art critic who has lived in New York since 1967 and has been writing about Alex Katz for almost as long. His publications include Alex Katz (Phaidon, 2005), Out of the Box: The Reinvention of Art, 1965-1975 (Allworth Press, 2000), Alex Katz: Cutouts (Cantz Verlag, 1997), and The Fate of Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Post-War American Art (1996, Farrar, Straus, Giroux).

The museum will present three films on Alex Katz and his work Sunday, July 15, at 7 p.m. at Common Street Arts (20 Common Street, Waterville): Alex Katz Painting (1978, 28 mins.), Alex Katz: Five Hours (1996, 21 mins.), and Alex Katz: What About Style? (2003, 56 mins.).

The Colby College Museum of Art, formally established in 1959, now comprises four wings, more than 7,000 works of art, and over 28,000 square feet of exhibition space. It holds a significant permanent collection that specializes in American and contemporary art. The museum is currently undergoing an ambitious expansion of its facilities led by Frederick Fisher & Partners Architects.

The Colby College Museum of Art is free and open to the public. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays.