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Katz’s pictures of Maine at the PAFA

Katz cutout
Cut-out of Vincent, Katz’s son – “Trophy III”

This summer the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art features the work of New York-based painter Alex Katz, (b. 1927) in an exhibit that opened June 24th. “Alex Katz in Maine” features nearly 40 paintings completed between 1958 and 2006 while the artist summered in Skowhegan, Maine.

Especially attractive were the two cut-outs, which preserve his abstract approach in representing his subject, but remain edgy in lacking right-angles. There were two cut-outs in the exhibit: “Trophy III” (see above), and a cut-out of a cow, which greets you immediately when you enter the exhibit. On the contrary, “Meadow,” a tan painting with a small scattering of purple flowers over its enormous surface, seemed more like wallpaper than a painting – generic, and detached. I couldn’t stop asking myself, while looking at it, why is this so large? In my opinion, Katz’s best work was not the billboard-sized, abstract landscapes, like “Meadow” (almost 10 feet by 20 feet), but rather the smaller work done of his family.

Walking on the Beach, 2002
“Walking on the Beach,” (2002) Alex Katz

Overall, the color and the painting style of the figures was attractive and fun, but for an exhibit about a place, I felt a little let down. Perhaps Katz meant for the viewer to feel Maine intrinsically, and therefore chose not to represent it in a way that can be described. I felt the painter’s attachment to the place, but I didn’t feel attached to it, or the art, myself. Adam Cvijanovic is an example of a previous muralist who graced the walls of the PAFA whose work succeeds; you can read the article that Roberta wrote about him here, (and thanks to her for the reference). His mural of Osage Avenue, also situational in that it is linked to a place, is a painting that you can emotionally connect to, unlike “Meadow,” (unfortunately I can’t find a picture of Meadow).

“Alex Katz in Maine” is on view at the PAFA’s Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, until September 3, 2006. The PAFA is open Tuesday – Sunday with admission ranging from $5 (children) to $7 (adults).

–Caitlin is the artblog intern