Brand-New and Terrific reexamines Katz’s early work

This year, the Colby College Museum of Art is featuring a new exhibit celebrating the early works of Alex Katz.  The exhibit will be on display to the public until October 18.

Entitled “Brand-New & Terrific,” the exhibit includes over 60 paintings, collages, and cutouts from the 1950’s when Katz began to develop his unique artistic style.    According to Katz Curator at the Colby Museum of Art Diana Tuite, this collection of early works is important to understanding Katz’s work. “He is painting on a much smaller scale (opposed to his later work) and he is painting directly onto the canvas without doing sketches of any kind,” she said. “Beginning in the 1960’s,” Tuite continues, “[Katz] works from multiple sketches. For a period of this time, he is painting from photographs, something he didn’t really do throughout the rest of his career.” 

Tuite put together the special exhibit using some of the permanent Katz works in the Colby Museum collection,  while also including additional works from other collections as well as utilizing works loaned by the artist himself.  This marks the first time that an exhibit has focused solely on Alex Katz’s early art.  Colby is the perfect place for this exhibit, given its vast collection of Katz’s work, “and the fact that we are home to the Paul J. Schupf Wing featuring the works of Alex Katz,” Tuite explains.

katzweb670x400Katz’s work can be viewed chronologically in the exhibit starting with his emphasis in the early 1950’s on Maine landscapes and portraits.  His paintings during this time were small in size and the faces on the group portraits are blocked out.  Around the same time, Katz also began to spend  summers in Maine, which influenced his landscapes. Throughout the mid 1950’s, Katz’s style evolved to include collages in addition to his oil paintings.  In the late 1950’s he continued his portrait paintings, but developed a feature called “reduplicative portraits” where the same person is painted several times within the same piece of work.  “He went against the grain of the most popular artistic styles of that time,” explains  Tuite. She adds that Maine was important to the development of his work because “Maine was a place where he could be part of a strong creative community and it was the first time he began to paint from nature, which was counter from the way art was being taught at that time.”  For Katz, Tuite continued.  “Maine was the foundation for everything that followed.”