ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
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ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)


ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
oil on linen
48 x 34 in. (121.9 x 83.4 cm.)
Painted in 1978.
Marlborough Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Julian Ehrlich
Julian Ehrlich Associate Vice President, Specialist, Head of Post-War to Present Sale

Lot Essay

Alex Katz’s Anne is a dazzling portrait of the American poet Anne Waldman, swathing her cool, impassive gaze in a shock of electric pink. The canvas pulses with vitality, yet reveals little of the subject’s psychology through her flattened features; instead, it is Katz’s distinctive analog of surfaces and textures, his surgical transformations of light and color, that forge the work’s captivating energies and openings. In his unmistakable style, Katz demonstrates that “structure and color have really to do with why things pull us, and why we should consent to being pulled by them, at the same time as we sense that they are not what they seem” (J. Kroll, "Alex Katz review," Art News, vol. 57, no. 9, January 1959).

Katz’s two paintings of Anne – the first of which is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – distill his long-time exchange and engagement with creatives of all disciplines, particularly poets. In the early 1950s, as he entered the art world and a new style of American poetry emerged, the artist found natural affinities to the poets in their shared project of chronicling contemporary life through immediate, straightforward translation. As art historian Debra Bricker Balken states, “Not only did [Katz] feel that its community was vibrant but also its denizens more attuned to the present, to the impulses of American life, and to articulating new languages that brazenly defied tradition by flaunting style over meaning. What Katz found so compelling about this scene was its complete disregard for aesthetic precedent, irreverence for an academy of poetry, and gravitation toward vernacular expression, where words were less pondered and possessed an immediacy that spoke of nowness” (A. Katz, Alex Katz: Collaborations with Poets, New York, 2023).

During his 2022 retrospective at the Guggenheim, Anne Waldman recited her 2004 poem, titled Conglomerate of Elegant Tendencies, in which she describes her time with Katz and their artistic circle:

“Figures float sometimes, sublime, aspiring as poetry must to a higher order
of meaning, of what sparks to be human...
They are visions, guardians, emblems of famous talky time
Or predilections hum or quiet: the isolate muse
Name a few: Ada, Edwin, Rudy, Frank, Bill, Ted, Vincent, Joan, Anne, Vivien
and they lean closer, walk, glide, announce, take one step off a centre’s
balance, give way, pivot and stand to hold up the entire universe
Miraculous, hold the brush some special way?”

Seen through Anne’s eyes, Alex’s practice mirrors her poetic pulse-on-the-present, her expression of their world in her own terms, motored by a pursuit and celebration of American glamour. In Anne, Katz has found the means to make the style of his sitter and the style of his painting converge, epitomizing each other as the canvas’s very properties, all in the spirit of the times.

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