The works of artist Alex Katz, born in New York in 1927,is meticulously constructed. Although art student days coincided with the era of Abstract Expressionism, he has remained true to figurative painting to this day. He is considered one of the precursors of Pop Art. Katz is modern and old-fashioned, radical and dignified, always in control and of cool detachment which puts the reins on any traces of sentimentality that are certainly immanent in his subject matter. He mostly varies motifs taken from his immediate surroundings: figures, portraits (especially of his wife Ada), minimalistic, reduced details of landscapes and architecture – executed with an extreme economy of style. Placed against monochromatic backgrounds his motifs seem to encapsulate movements frozen in time, a gesture, a fleeting ray of light. Stylized fragments of reality comparable to Japanese woodcuts capture the beauty of an exaggerated ‘impressionistic’ moment in its most positive sense.
The Brandhorst Collection includes paintings and a cutout from between 1959 and 1997. The majority are portraits but there are also several lyrical landscapes. In a gallery in the Museum Brandhorst dedicated exclusively to this artist, an impression of the work of this influential American painter can easily be gained. The painting The Black Dress is certainly one of the most important works. It was created in 1960 at a time when several protagonists of the Pop Art movement were simultaneously experimenting with the principle of serial production. Katz depicts a woman wearing a short black dress in various poses as seen at cocktail parties. The repetition of the motif in the same pictorial space represents an unaccountable break with reality that recurs also in the figure of the man in the picture on the wall. He seems as if he were at the same party as the woman although, on the other hand, he is ‘only’ a figure in a painting.