Alex Katz: Black Paintings at Timothy Taylor Gallery
Since 28th February 2015, Timothy Taylor Gallery in Mayfair has presented an exhibition of new paintings from New York-based artist Alex Katz.
The gallery is not unfamiliar with Katz’s work – this is in fact their seventh collaboration together. This time, the pieces on show are large-scale portraits, where the subjects are assigned to the margins with black space occupying most of each canvas. As a result, there is a striking contract between the depth of the black paint and the studio-lit figures, making them stand out even more. The technique Katz used to create these paintings includes sketching the subjects on his 16-inch boards first, and then developing large images on canvas.
Looking at the paintings, there is some sense of purpose to each of the individuals portrayed – each person looks occupied by their own thoughts, their eyes letting you look into their minds. Of course, each viewer can find in them a completely different thing. This personal experience is possible as there are no further distractions. Again, the black background finds another purpose, as the lack of a landscape behind the figures means a lack of a certain narrative as well. Ultimately the story behind each image is in the eyes of the viewer: the tension here lets the spectator complete the picture.
Although the people painted are usually unrecognisable, Katz’s wife Ada can be found among them, in Ava and Vivien. It is this uncertainty in who the figure on the canvas is that makes his paintings so desirable. The names of the pictures don’t tell us much either: the same way you can only find a single figure or two on the canvas, you only see a name in the description. So, we have Don, Ariel, Eleanore, Vincent, Thor and Elizabeth, Eve: you get a name to put to the face and nothing more, the rest is up to you.
Black Paintings is a good small exhibition of contemporary pieces that brings together a range of different individuals, and puts them against a black background. This is its strongest point. While every person is situated at the same “spot”, it is plain easy to see how marginally different those people are from each other. Ultimately, the background is the only thing that those figures share.
Alex Katz: Black Paintings is at Timothy Taylor Gallery until 2nd April 2015, for further information visit here.