Alex Meets Ada
Alex Katz first met his wife, Ada, at an opening at the Tangier Gallery in 1958. She immediately became one of his favorite models. “I’d been painting these all-over landscapes, and then I decided to paint details like eyes and noses and mouths,” he told me when I interviewed him for ARTnews in 1998. “I was working on that idea when she came along, and she just fit right in.” But love can cloud even the sharpest vision: “Once I became emotionally involved with her, I couldn’t see her objectively. It took about a whole winter to get a likeness.”
Katz said he could not even begin to estimate how many times he had painted his wife. (“She puts up with it,” he noted wrly. “She’s the perfect model—a classic European face and an all-American beauty.”) But it’s clear that she’s played a big role in his stylistic evoluton. With The Red Smile of 1963 the painter showed himself completely attuned to the emerging aesthetics of the 1960s. Like Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, and Donald Judd, he was making dramatically reductive art, monumental and pared of inessentials.
“Alex Katz at the Met” is a choice selection of cut-outs and paintings, tucked in a gallery behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries of modern art on the second floor. Well worth a visit—it’s like a breath of spring in raw winter weather. The show runs through June 26, 2016.