Alex Katz: Quick Light

Serpentine Gallery

2 Jun 2016 to 11 Sep 2016

Alex Katz: Quick Light

Admission Free

The Serpentine presented the work of renowned American painter Alex Katz (b. 1927, Brooklyn, New York). This exhibition brought together Katz’s extraordinarily productive output of recent years alongside works from across his career in an installation that responded and related to the unique context of the Serpentine Gallery.

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Coming of age as an artist in 1950s New York, Katz developed his unique approach to contemporary representational painting during the height of Abstract Expressionism. 

Over the five and a half decades since his first exhibition in 1954, Katz has produced a celebrated body of work, including paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints. Establishing himself as a pre-eminent painter of modern life, he was influenced by films, billboard advertising, music, poetry and his close circle of friends and family. His portraits and landscapes are characterised by their flatness of colour and fluidity of line, reinventing both genres within the context of abstract painting and contemporary image-making.

The Serpentine exhibition took landscape as its focus, bringing together Katz’s extraordinarily productive output of recent years alongside select works from the past two decades. Katz’s landscape paintings exemplify his life-long quest to capture the present tense in paint. Regardless of their scale, Katz describes these paintings as ‘environmental’ in the way in which they envelop the viewer. Defined by temporal qualities of light, times of the day and the changing of the seasons, these paintings responded and related to the unique context of the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. The exhibition also included a recent series of portraits.

Installed outside the Serpentine Gallery Ada, (wind vane) is a flat sculpture which is part of Alex Katz’s ‘cut-outs’ – a body of work that dates back to 1959 when he began to cut out figures from his paintings to emphasise the two-dimensionality of painting. The sculpture is a functioning wind vane and a freestanding portrait of the artist’s wife and life-long muse, Ada, who is the subject of many of his works, including a painting in the exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. Inspired by billboard advertising and the experience of going to the cinema, Katz characteristically employs an oversized format in his painted and sculptural portraits in order to play with the viewer’s sense of scale. This sculpture expanded the exhibition Quick Light beyond the walls of the Gallery connecting Katz’s work with the Serpentine’s parkland surroundings.  

Katz draws parallels between his approach to painting and his interest in poetry, both equally concerned with stripping away unnecessary detail to leave only the essential information. This relationship between language and the painting process was echoed in the work of painter, poet and filmmaker Etel Adnan, shown in parallel at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, whose landscapes are similarly defined by their bold colour and simplified form that is nevertheless rooted in keen observation of the world around her.

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Exhibition

Etel Adnan: The Weight of the World

2 Jun 2016 to 11 Sep 2016

Serpentine Galleries presented the works of painter, essayist and poet Etel Adnan, who was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon. In her first solo exhibition in a UK public institution, the Serpentine showed work from across her career and including paintings, drawings, poetry, film and tapestry.

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Saturdays Live: Rie Nakajima, Low

30 Jul 2016 - 7:30 PM

Artist Rie Nakajima presented a sound performance, titled Low, at the Serpentine Gallery, inspired by the exhibition by Alex Katz.

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Public Talk: An Evening of Poetry, curated by Vincent Katz

2 Jun 2016 - 8:00 PM

Poets Etel Adnan, Elaine Equi, Peter Gizzi, John Godfrey and Vincent Katz gathered in the Alex Katz exhibition for an evening of poetry readings. With the participation of Alex Katz.

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Quick Light

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Exhibition Catalogue

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Alex Katz: Quick Light film

Wednesday, 20th July 2016
Alex Katz Ada, wind vane

Alex Katz Ada, wind vane

Alex Katz Ada, (wind vane) 2016 Porcelain enamel on shaped steel (two sided), mounted on powder-coated steel base 368.3 x 147.32 cm. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London With thanks to Lococo Fine Art Publisher
Alex Katz installation image 12

Alex Katz installation image 12

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info
Alex Katz installation image 10

Alex Katz installation image 10

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info
Alex Katz installation image 11

Alex Katz installation image 11

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info
Alex Katz installation image 3

Alex Katz installation image 3

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info
Alex Katz installation image 5

Alex Katz installation image 5

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © Tristan Fewings / Getty
Alex Katz installation image 8

Alex Katz installation image 8

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info
Alex Katz installation image 9

Alex Katz installation image 9

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info
Alex Katz installation image 7

Alex Katz installation image 7

Alex Katz: Quick Light; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, London (2 June – 11 September 2016); Image © readsreads.info