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Floating Beauties: Alex Katz and the Japanese Print    Oct 26 - Nov 26, 2011


FAS Contemporary is proud to announce an exhibition of prints by internationally acclaimed American artist, Alex Katz which will be shown alongside nineteenth and early twentieth century Japanese prints of portraits, figures and waterscapes. This exhibition will offer a unique insight into Katz’s printmaking output, examining the influence of Japanese prints that he has often cited as a source of inspiration. The exhibition will also premiere a new iconic print of his long-term muse and wife, ‘Ada’ using the ‘full-colour’ Japanese woodblock technique.

The nineteenth century witnessed the opening of the Japanese borders to the rest of the world and it was through exhibitions of work by artists such as Hokusai, one of the bestknown Japanese artists of the nineteenth century, mounted at The Fine Art Society in 1890 that introduced Japanese artists to a new, Western audience. This unique and historic link makes FAS Contemporary the perfect stage for this exhibition.

One of the most influential artists of his generation, Katz is known for his cool, aloof and yet serenely seductive depictions of modern life. Drawing on the familiar, his work is characterized by distinctive portraits and idyllic landscapes that sit somewhere between realism and abstraction. Using his own distinct visual vocabulary, Katz pares back his subjects to line, form and colour creating enigmatic and cinematic images that raise as many questions as they answer.

Primarily known as a painter, printmaking has been integral to his career as a means of developing and distilling his unique and minimal aesthetic. The sparcity of line, form and colour that epitomize his paintings make the print the perfect vehicle for Katz. Interest in his prints has also recently been reinvigorated after he donated his comprehensive opus of graphic work to both the Austrian museum, The Albertina in Vienna and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston who have mounted a touring retrospective that opened at The Albertina last year.

Katz has frequently cited Japanese prints as an important influence and the link is immediate in both form and content. The Japanese Ukiyo-e or ‘pictures of the floating world’ evoke the transient world that occupy the prints of both Katz and Japanese printmakers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. With a shared quest for beauty, both parties would depict familiar landscapes and figures; in the case of Katz, his family, friends and the New York intelligentsia and for the Edo printmakers, famous actors and beautiful actresses. Stylistically, the flatness of form, the compression of space, the blocked colour and emphasis on the effects of light in the Japanese prints also resonate through Katz's work.

Born in New York in 1927, Katz has exhibited internationally in over 200 solo and retrospective exhibitions and over 500 group shows since 1951. His work can be found in more than 100 public collections worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Tate Modern, London, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Nationalgalerie, Berlin and Reina Sofia, Madrid. Katz lives and works in New York.

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