Alex Katz in the Museum Ostwall Dortmund - the "perfect exhibition" for the Dortmunder U?
Of surfaces and contents
- Series: DORTMUNDER U – art & creativity
In the second temporary exhibition of the Museum Ostwall (MO) in the Dortmunder U since its opening 2010, the big possibilities and also the difficulties of the Dortmunder U are revealed. With the Alex Katz exhibition „Der perfekte Augenblick“ (“The perfect moment”), the MO has brought a real highlight to Dortmund – which probably still will not succeed to fulfill the wishes for a “visitor boom” of the parties responsible.
Will people line up in que
Also, the head of the municipal cultural department, Jörg Stüdemann, has asked for exhibitions which are more appealing to „the public“, which just shows how desperate they really have become in Dortmund in the meantime.
So now, the MO presents Alex Katz: that is courageous – and exactly the right choice because behind the surface of his paintings, so many things are hidden. Just like in the U and in real life.
A beach beyond the pavement?
The paintings by the 85-year old Katz are dominated by colours, all motifs are beautiful, but flat and smooth, almost one-dimensional – be it faces, couples, dancers, or a cow. Katz just needs one colour to illustrate an harbour (Harbor, 2008), a sunset (Twilight, 2008), a beach (Daytona Beach Series, 1996), or nocturnal atmosphere (New Year‘s Eve, 1992). Backgrounds, details – in many of his paintings, these don’t exist. He wants to show perfection, the essence of a moment – but he doesn’t want to tell stories while doing that.
It takes a long look to see beyond the surface
It takes some time to penetrate the surface of his paintings, the blank faces, or the seemingly lifeless illustrations of nature, and to discover an emotion, or something special. A beautiful woman, or an idyllic lake, no special facial expressions, no things which may point to some connection or events. His surfaces bear possibilities, even if they sometimes appear as if Katz had freeze-dried the people and places and proceeded to paint them leaving out all details, backgrounds, or colour spectrums.
Repetition until perfection
His paintings are fascinating due to their pattern-like repetition of motifs and characters which nevertheless are no dull repetition but a quest for perfection, for the perfect moment by a variation of a subject that seems to be the same all the time. The challenge for the visitors is not to be repelled by the coolness and surface and to imagine the paintings not only as a nice decoration above their sofas.
Katz is influenced by advertising boards and film posters which want nothing else but to be an eye-catcher for the related product. But his paintings begin to live the longer you look at them – as opposed to commercials and the advertisements in magazines and on TV which lose their appeal when you take a closer look at them.
His paintings are quiet, special, and slow, studies of patience and depth. Their appearance, reduced and skilful, can be an antidote to the blatant, seemingly intelligent, artificially complicated goings-on in the contemporary arts universe. And along the way, you enjoy the colours and motifs, can get lost in the space the artist has left for you, the spectator, even if he is on a quest for his very own perfection.
The exhibition Alex Katz "Der perfekte Augenblick" has started on January 20 and runs until April 9 2012 in the Museum Ostwall on the 6th floor of the Dortmunder U.