July 29, 2012

Art Review: Katz appeals to deep feelings in two excellent shows


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“Pas De Deux” by Alex Katz was given to Colby College by Paul J. Schupf in honor of former art museum director Hugh Gourley, who died last week.

Images courtesy Colby College Museum of Art

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“Moon Ring” by Lois Dodd, oil on canvas

Additional Photos Below


"MAINE/NEW YORK," paintings by Alex Katz

"REDISCOVERIES 3," works from the permanent collection curated by Alex Katz

WHERE: Colby College Museum of Art, 5600 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville

WHEN: "Maine/New York" through Dec. 30; "Rediscoveries 3" through Oct. 7

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday


INFO: 859-5600; colby.edu/museum

In the other half of Colby's summer lineup -- the show curated by Katz -- is a print by Yvonne Jacquette, "Nightscape Woodcut," that also shows New York at night as a dense landscape whose buildings are presented by the lights of their windows.

As a static view from a tall building, Jacquette's black-and-white piece is inextricably bound to photography. It's a jazzy and delicious piece, but it doesn't touch the personal feel of Katz's viewpoint, which posits you on the street and on your weary feet.

Katz's "West 2" is a similar urban giant, but it's a commercial building rather than an apartment. The decade I spent in NYC might be behind my sense of immediate recognition, but Katz's effect is undeniable.

Moreover, there is enough of Katz's early work in the show to make it clear he had to achieve a certain mental fluency in this language before he could really make his paintings work without needing translation.

The cool brilliance is certainly there in the early work, but Katz had yet to leave behind the sea anchor of his scheming intelligence.

This may seem to explain nothing about Katz's figurative work, but I hope it opens the door to seeing it like sculpture rather than painting -- or spatial plays on "actual size." Most of the figures are urban others -- seen in strained proximity but unknown to (and therefore unengaged by) the viewer.

A girl on a raft might be just someone you quietly pass on a Maine lake -- a fleeting glimpse that you, for some reason, remember.

Katz deserves credit for painting himself out of the equation. He doesn't want you to swoon over his strokes. The work is psychological, but doesn't assert his personal psyche on the viewer. We are left to our own thoughts -- and our own bodies.

Katz's work is like riding a bike. It's impossible to explain, and it's all about the feel. But once you get it, you don't forget it.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

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“Tracy on the Raft at 7:30” by Alex Katz, oil on canvas


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