Kim in Black Stockings (1989) is an exquisite example of Alex Katz’s serene optical style. The subject is Kim Heirston, whom Katz first met behind the front desk of Robert Miller Gallery in the late 1980s; having gone on to direct the gallery, and later to direct Pace and Stux, Heirston is today a top-tier private art advisor. She peers out of the canvas with poised intelligence, a half-smile registering the connection between her and the painter. As with much of Katz’s work depicting the stylish demi-monde of the New York art world, the present work encapsulates his supreme talent in distilled composition and potent economy of form. Trafficking in fat surfaces and clean lines, Katz rarefies detail to coolly powerful effect without emptying his works of personality. Emerging alongside such American greats as Pollock, de Kooning and Warhol, his treatment of the picture plane went audaciously against the grain in its apparently simplistic and impassive stance. His empiricist approach in fact disavows constancy and objectivity, directly interrogating the representative work of paint. As Irving Sandler has written, ‘Representation had long been spurned by the avant-garde because it seemed encrusted with tradition, too conventional and overworked, too easy. But not the way Katz tackled it, for he aspired to synthesize two of the major, and seemingly irreconcilable, tendencies in modern art: truth to the perception of the real, three-dimensional world (the truth of a Courbet, for example), and truth to the medium – in painting, to the picture as a real, two-dimensional object (the truth of a Gauguin). Katz aimed to deal with the competing demands of both conceptions of realism at their extremes, and this too was a modernist ambition’ (I. Sandler, Alex Katz, New York 1979, pp. 18-19).