alex katz


The contrast between neat self-containment and eruptive gesturalism — between uptight small figures and spontaneous nature, indeed, figures banalized by their inhibitions and nature flaring into unpredictable sublimity in moments of uninhibited self-expression — informs all of Katz’s ‘60s paintings, giving them a dialectical intensity, even feverish tension, never associated with the “cool” Katz. I am suggesting that Katz’s paintings are emotionally dense — not to say romantic — despite themselves. One wonders if his gestural energy is a residue of the abstract gestural sublime in Pollock’s all-over paintings, deliberately tilting it away from its superficial rhythmic crust toward the chaotic depths below. Indeed, Katz’s gesturalism is mischievously discomforting, even subversive of what seem to be socially proper human relationships. But then there is tension between Don and Marisol in the two 1960s paintings devoted to them, and the tension leaks out in the handling.

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