Beta

On “Katz” in real-time

(Micah Rodman/YH Staff)

(Micah Rodman/YH Staff)

“Katz X Katz” is a retrospective-in-miniature of the work of the New York painter Alex Katz. It is currently on view at the Yale University School of Art’s 32 Edgewood gallery through Mar. 10. The following review-in-miniature was recorded in real-time into the microphone of an iPhone and edited only for the purposes of clarity and concision.

I am dictating my experience in order to provide a real-time phenomenological account of what it feels and looks like to see this show.

[The guard greets me and gives me a sheet with dates and names of paintings. He leaves.]

I am no longer self-conscious because I am now the only person in the room…

[The show takes place in one large room.]

…except for the two bodies standing up next to me.

[It is a cardboard cut-out of two bodies.]

Every time you walk by the building it seems as though there are two museum-goers already inside, standing back to back, dressed in smart, hip clothing, looking at each respective wall of the show…

At first glance, it seems to be a show about love, about two-ness, about paintings of friends and lovers. A bit in the style of photographic realism, except with the framing conceits of photographs in mind and without the realism…

The first painting, “Lisa and Brooks,” details a couple in harmonious matrimony? marriage? married to a backdrop of painted flowers. There’s an air of kitsch to this painting as well as to the painting above it and the painting next to it. I can’t quite put my finger on [the kitsch] but I think it might be that the backgrounds don’t seem to quite believe in themselves: brown and pink clashes, references to Japanese like gardens in business-y offices. It feels more like a cartoon than precise…

[While examining some more images of coupling:]

Vincent and Anastasia are another couple depicted. So are Vivian and Vincent. Vincent likes to get around…

I’m now walking around the room, taking in the paintings a little more, and now I see the best one. It’s called “Seated Alex” and it looks so much like a copy of a Matisse: cut-out-seeming shapes, patterned bamboo in the background, orange and yellow hues and a blue window, the persistence of flat solid color…

In a lot of these paintings, it’s a lot about the clothing: pinstriped suits, striped shirts, a cardigan, a funky blazer, pink and beige plaid probably from the ‘70s, so too the green sweater…

If you walk down the corridor into the downstairs area, which I didn’t realize existed, you pass slightly gauche photos––sorry, paintings––of flowers until you come onto something that’s absolutely beautiful. It looks as though Joan Mitchell and Phillip Guston’s color pink had a lovechild that was the strange unending vision of Richard Diebenkorn’s American landscapes…I’m realizing that’s a lot to say at once in a sentence but that’s where I went. There’s green stuck in and onto the smooth grey forms and blue at the top and green again at the bottom and then there’s this one spot of pink so deliberate, yet anxiously accidental, it could make a person crazy.

I think this painting is so good [you’ll know it when you see it] that I’m confused why the painting to its left—a large tumescent orchid––is not…

Continuing down this hallway, there are two more stunning paintings of yellow flowers flanked with green stems. It’s as though you are feeling what it’s like to close your eyelids at night and see all the different colors press themselves upon the lids of your eyes. The brushstrokes of this painting [the first you will encounter on your way down this hallway] are deliberately brushstrokes. By that I mean to say: no attempt is made to capture the actual shape of the petal. There’s only a fidelity to their unassorted casual arrangement across the field. Two millimeter-wide by about four to five inch long brush strokes scatter around to show a vision of depth––not a vision—a…[long pause]…the idea of where depth might be if someone later wished to find its possible positions. It’s a schematic, a sketch, rather than an illusionistic representation of depth. No attempt is made at actual verisimilitude and that’s why it’s beautiful, that’s why it’s a pattern. The background, I should mention, is this sort of beige purplish violet grey….

And now I’m walking back up this hallway, because it ends in a door…

[As I’m about to leave, the guard at the entrance again greets me. He tells me to look at the large portrait on the wall directly above our heads.]

“I actually want to point your attention to this one,” he says. The painting, called “David, Robert, and Irving” shows three men whose eyes seem to survey and watch over the entire room. “That’s actually the Dean of the Art School, Robert Storr, and he’s the reason why we had this show because he used to work in the City for MoMA and he knows this artist personally. He curated the show. So that’s him and two other guys who I don’t know. I would definitely call his office for a quote because it might give some weight to the story.”