Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s

NEUBERGER MUSEUM OF ART | JULY 1 - OCTOBER 14, 2018

Alex Katz, Bather, 1959. Oil on linen, 48 × 72 inches. Colby College Museum of Art. © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

Simplicity is the essential objective. Deceptively trouble-free
And unobtainable. How can one be fast but not hurry?
This fancy has been there from the get go. Quintessential
Instances like Two boys, Street Scene Balloons,
Jack’s Fancy Fruit Vegetable. Fabulous leap, tender negotiation
With space beneath the basket in the seventh game of the
NBA Finals. No one can predict the three-point dagger
Or windmill dunk. Standing ovation, full-capacity crowd.

All this happened before Camden became a backwater’s
Backwater. Ada stands at the central axis of Bather, reassuring
The platform of earth its worth to the sea’s immensity.
Clamdigger at Ducktrap, especially Blueberry Field,
Acrobatic choreography of dancing brushstrokes prevails
Long before Paul Taylor entered the scene. Suspecting speed before
It becomes aspect like breezy tone, as Frank O’Hara would
Write in his lunch poem, “My heart is in my pocket.”
Elsewhere, everyone notices how Ada lends her smiles to
Every climate of environment, be it social in Manhattan or natural
In Lincolnville, Maine.
Gazing at Irving and Lucy, their wedding gift in 1958,
Followed by Rudy and Edith, say
At 4 pm,
Alex’s haiku cubism was already underway. Urbane acumen.
Swift gestures. Edges never fuzzy, razor-sharp
Like the samurai’s sword,
Never fails to rehearse each duel.




Alex Katz, Blueberry Field, 1955. Oil on Masonite, 32 × 48 inches. Collection of the artist, © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Contributor

Phong Bui

PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.

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