An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...
Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...
Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...
Timothy Taylor, London, is pleased to present Coca-Cola Girls, an exhibition of new large-scale paintings by Alex Katz inspired by the eponymous, and iconic, figures from advertising art history.
The Coca-Cola Girls were an integral component of the company's advertising from the 1890's through to the 1960's, emanating an ideal of the American woman. Initially, the Coca-Cola Girls were reserved and demure, evolving during WWI, and through the era of the pin-up, to images of empowered service women in uniform, and athletic, care-free, women at leisure. In the context of pre-televised advertising, the wall decals and large-scale billboards depicting these figures made a significant impact on the visual language of the American urban landscape.
For Katz, this optimistic figure also encapsulates a valuable notion of nostalgia; 'That's Coca-Cola red, from the company's outdoor signs in the fifties... you know, the blond girl in the red convertible, laughing with unlimited happiness. It's a romance image, and for me it has to do with Rembrandt's The Polish Rider. I could never understand that painting but my mother and Frank O'Hara both flipped over it, so I realised I was missing something. They saw it as a romantic figure, riding from the Black Sea to the Baltic.' 1
The poses captured in these new paintings disclose a sense of balletic movement; a left arm extending upwards, a head twisted to the right, a leg poised on the ball of a foot, or a hand extending to and from nowhere – always glimpsed in a fleeting gesture within a dynamic sequence.
Like the figures in his work, Katz's painting process is tightly choreographed; his practice is firmly rooted in drawing. Preparation for painting involves a renaissance technique called 'pouncing' whereby to-scale cartoons of figures on brown paper are tacked onto the surface of the painting. The outlines are punctured with a tool and then pigment is pushed through the holes to delineate the space. The sheer scale and highly dextrous 'no-noodling' brushwork of these paintings demonstrate an incredibly physical process of making, requiring rigour and discipline. The process of repetition is also key to Katz's practice – 'part of what I'm about is seeing how I can paint the same thing differently instead of different things in the same way.'
Katz's work has long been defined by an economy of gesture; a hyperconscious simplification of a perpetual now, which he describes as 'quick things passing'. Katz's direct, unambiguous, application of paint is devoid of sentimentality; these paintings are not about the character or mood of the figure, but rather the style and attitude of a present moment, a subtle distinction with boundless consequence.
Having formally trained in commercial art; television adverts, movie close-ups and billboards undeniably influences Katz's work as it does in Pop Art, but where Pop Art relies on the replication and multiplication of mass media, Katz manifests the opposite, a sense of compression and intensification. His wide ranging and eclectic preoccupation with the history of painting, from early Egyptian, to Japanese block-printing; Jackson Pollock to European masters such as Matisse and Manet, distinguishes him from the ideals of Pop Art, and has fostered his reputation as an outlier, idiosyncratic and uncategorised.
Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. After graduating from the prestigious Cooper Union School of Art in Manhattan in 1949, he was awarded a scholarship by the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In 1968, Katz moved into an artists' cooperative building in SoHo, New York, where he has lived and worked ever since, spending his summers in Lincolnville, Maine.
Katz has been the subject of over 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group shows internationally since 1951, including retrospectives: The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; The Jewish Museum, New York; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Colby College Museum of Art, Maine; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden; Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain; The Saatchi Gallery, London; Tate St. Ives, UK; Turner Contemporary, UK; Albertina Museum, Vienna; and The Guggenheim, Bilbao.
1 - Alex Katz in conversation with Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, August 2018
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