Alex Katz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Monica De Cardenas, Milan
    Private Collection, Seoul
    Jason Haam Gallery, Seoul
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Milan, Monica de Cardenas Galleria, Alex Katz, 25 November 2005 - 14 February 2006, pp. 14-15 (illustrated, p. 15)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Deceptively simple in their execution, the New York School painter Alex Katz’s famed portraits and landscapes feature immaculate flat planes and clean lines, a technique first developed by the artist in the Fifties. Katz’s minimalistic and defiantly figurative approach arose as a response to Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field Abstraction. From these movements he derives the size and scale of his works, as well as the sense of abstract flatness. His clean, vibrant and graphic visual language is influenced in part by the aesthetics of post-war American billboard advertising and the later Pop Art movement. However, over seven decades of artistic creation, Alex Katz has developed a distinctive visual language inspired by a wide range of sources including cinema, photography, advertising and pop culture in general. He has always remained distinct in his own version of figuration and portraiture that he dubbed ‘totally American’ and therefore holds a unique position between formalism and representation within American art history.

    The present work was unveiled as part of a larger group of pieces that radiated a new sense of energy displayed by the artist in the mid-2000s, painted in bold colours such as pinks and blues, and in particular the lime green of Leigh. In this work, the titular blonde character dons a trench coat with her hands in her pockets, and faces the viewer in the middle of the canvas with a relaxed half-smile so typical of Katz. Against this luminous green field, the subject of the painting becomes the focal point of the work: an intense form of figuration as imagined by the artist. Having previously named Goya amongst key painters influential to his mode of painting, it is perhaps possible to detect in Katz’s work a contemporary rendition of the portraiture for which the 19th century artist was famous. In its minimalist and luminous execution, Leigh is devoid of sentimental attachment and yet capable of communicating a potent and profound psychological connection with its audience. Similar to Goya then perhaps is Katz’s attention not only to the inner monologue conveyed by their models, but utilising cropping and confinement of canvas in order to evoke certain sentiments.

    In Leigh, the protagonist is featured in an almost ‘wide angle’ portrait, with the cropping showing the space just above Leigh’s head, ending our view of her just below her coat. Calling to mind Katz’s signature cut-outs in the sharpness of Leigh’s rendering, a technique he created at the beginning of his career, the present work exudes a sense of starkness in which it is possible to insert oneself into the painting. Furthermore, in aligning his subject parallel to the picture plane, the character takes on an almost confrontational aspect, forcing the audience into acute awareness of her.



signed and dated 'Alex Katz 05' on the reverse
oil on canvas
213.4 x 154.4 cm. (84 x 60 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2005.

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,990,000

Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019