WOW – Work Of the Week – Alex Katz “Julia And Alexandra”

Julia And Alexandra
Julia And Alexandra
37 x 74 in.
Edition of 75
Pencil signed and numbered


About This Work:

Alex Katz is an American painter of portraits and landscapes. He started working on these themes during years dominated by non-figurative art, which he always strongly avoided.
Living in New York City, since the 1950s Katz spends his summers in Maine, which has been his source of inspiration for many of his famous landscapes.
As for his portraits, the people he depicts are colleagues that surrounded him during his career, members of his family, friends or neighbors.

Alex Katz’s portraits are always very recognizable. They are all characterized by an unmistakable flatness and lack of detail. To represent a shadow or light, he uses  slight variations of colors. Many times, monochrome backgrounds represent another defining characteristic of his style.
These portraits do not own a clear narrative – it is not important for the viewer to know the person or the story behind the artwork. What Katz tries to emphasize is actually the beauty of the subjects. The use of gentle colors and the emphasis of fashion details in his paintings turn the coldness of the sharp lines, lack of detail and flatness into an artwork warm for the viewer to enjoy.

This work, Julia And Alexandra, represents a perfect example of Katz’s style. The flatness and lack of details are juxtaposed by the gradual shading of colors, creating a sense of dimensionality and a conceptual complexity. One important factor that makes his simplistic works more complex is the representation of fashion. It may seem minimal – a couple of lines for a necklace, some polka dots on a scarf – but these details of fashion are most important.

As we can see, in this particular work, Julia And Alexandra, Katz not only depicts this portrait in his unique style made of monochromatic colors, flatness and lack of details, but also ties them together with this unifying element of fashion. Despite their apparent simplicity, these details make the faces extremely expressive and perfectly capture the essence of the subjects.

It is this element of detail in his work that the artist has always been passionate about. His interest in fashion increased in 1960s, when he began designing sets and costumes for choreographer Paul Taylor as well as theater and dance shows. Costumes, hairstyles, glasses, clothes, shoes, scarves or bathing caps are meticulously considered, as well as the gaze of the subject and his/her position; whether sitting or standing.

The genius of Alex Katz’s style is derived directly from one of Katz’s biggest influences, the Master Japanese woodblock artist Kitagawa Utamaro (1753 – 1806). Utamaro’s woodcuts are in the Ukiyo-e tradition, which means “pictures of the floating world” and represent everyday life scenes, capturing a specific person or a particular moment.

Utamaro is one of the most highly regarded practitioners of the genre of woodblock prints. He is known for his portraits of beautiful women. This Japanese aesthetic is typically flat and bi-dimensional. He influenced Katz particularly with his use of partial views and his emphasis on light and shade.

As with all of Katz’s works, Julia And Alexandra definitely follows along the style and influence of Utamaro’s artworks.

Below are a few examples of Utamaro woodblock prints.

Takashima Ohisa using two mirrors to observe her coiffure

Takashima Ohisa Using Two Mirrors To Observe Her Coiffure

A Beauty After Her Bath

A Beauty After Her Bath


WOW! – Work of The Week

Robert Rauschenberg, Soviet American Array VI

Robert Rauschenberg, Soviet/American Array VI, 1990

Robert Rauschenberg, Soviet/American Array VI, 1990

Robert Rauschenberg
Soviet American Array VI
Intaglio in 16 colors on Saunders paper
88 1/2 x 52 in.
Edition of 59
This piece is pencil signed and numbered.

About This Work:

Rauschenberg’s Soviet American Array VI  is one of a seven print series where he sought to address the politics of newfound peace constructively through his art. In 1989 Rauschenberg became the first American artist since WWII to have a solo show in the Soviet Union. His Moscow show in 1990 debuted his Soviet/American Array series.

The works of the Soviet/American Array series display photographs taken both in the United States and former Soviet Union to highlight the similarities and contrasts of the two major super powers of the Cold War. Rauschenberg juxtaposes photographic subjects that range from street signs to grand Soviet architecture to people immersed in their daily lives and jobs. When put together, these images bring attention to the ways we understand and define cultures, which are both complex and dynamic.

About Robert Rauschenberg:

Robert Rauschenberg began what was to be an artistic revolution. Rauschenberg’s enthusiasm for popular culture and his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting. He found his signature mode by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist’s reach. He would cover a canvas with house paint, or ink the wheel of a car and run it over paper to create a drawing, while demonstrating rigor and concern for formal painting.

By 1958, at the time of his first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, his work had moved from abstract painting to drawings like “Erased De Kooning” (which was exactly as it sounds) to what he termed “combines.” These combines (meant to express both the finding and forming of combinations in three-dimensional collage) cemented his place in art history.

This pioneering altered the course of modern art. The idea of combining and of noticing combinations of objects and images has remained at the core of Rauschenberg’s work.

As Pop Art emerged in the ’60s, Rauschenberg turned away from three-dimensional combines and began to work in two dimensions, using magazine photographs of current events to create silk-screen prints. Rauschenberg transferred prints of familiar images, such as JFK or baseball games, to canvases and overlapped them with painted brushstrokes. They looked like abstractions from a distance, but up close the images related to each other, as if in conversation.

These collages were a way of bringing together the inventiveness of his combines with his love for painting. Using this new method he found he could make a commentary on contemporary society using the very images that helped to create that society.

In 1998 The Guggenheim Museum put on its largest exhibition ever with four hundred works by Rauschenberg, showcasing the breadth and beauty of his work, and its influence over the second half of the century.