It is easy to forget just how really good a painter Alex Katz can be. This is because he makes everything look so easy and natural. Coming of age during the early 1950s, at the height of Abstract Expressionism, the idea of showing struggle and existential angst became anathema to him. This is what he had in common with his friend and early champion, the poet Frank O’Hara.
In a small show of eight paintings and cut-outs, Alex Katz at the Met, currently at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (October 9, 2015–June 26, 2016), one sees that being good wasn’t enough for this artist. Done between 1957 and 2014, and spanning nearly sixty years, the selection highlights the artist’s innovative examination of the relationship between the figure and the surrounding space.
No wonder so many poets have written so eloquently about Katz — from Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler and John Ashbery to Bill Berkson, Carter Ratcliff and Barry Schwabsky.