Review: Alex Katz, Serpentine Gallery


Given its location in Hyde Park, it’s a smart move by Serpentine Gallery to open a show on Alex Katz’s landscapes. Alex’s huge paintings brim with vibrant greens and fields of yellow in brightly lit scenes. And these are offset against other night time scenes where trees are shrouded in darkness, only the faintest hints of moonlight illuminating the tops of the bare branches.

Though the show focuses on landscapes, there are a number of portraits included in the display. The colour palette remains bold with simple figures painted against backgrounds of citric orange. It could have been so easy for such brilliance in the background to overwhelm the sitter but actually it all works in harmony, not least as in one it accentuates the sitter’s green eyes beautifully.

Most of the pieces on display were completed in the past few years, with the show also including select works from the past two decades. Alex considers these paintings to be ‘environmental’, in that they envelop the viewer, wrapping them in scenes that reflect the effect of light at different times of the day and the changing of seasons.

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And this observation of landscape, and reflection in paintings of simple form and bright colours, is complemented by the display of Etel Adnan’s work in the neighbouring Sackler Gallery. The two shows work well both solo and in tandem.

I’ve always found Alex’s paintings to be deceptive. Their simple representation and intense colours can make them seem superficial but I find there’s more depth to them than you’d expect.  This is an enjoyable collection of work that shows that, even at 88 years of age, Alex remains a prolific painter.

For more images from the show, have a look at my Facebook page.

Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park, London to September 11, 2016
Admission Free

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

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