Critics’ Picks

Blizzard 1, 2005.

Houston

Alex Katz

Texas Gallery
2012 Peden Street
February 28 - April 8

A 1996 issue of Artforum features an essay on Alex Katz by (a flagrantly O’Haraesque) Jack Pierson in which the painter is quoted as claiming, “My art is fairly repressed actually.” Though this line may touch upon Katz’s hard-edged realism or earnest figurative subjects, the group of recent paintings on view here flaunts an uninhibited brushstroke and unrestrained scale. The eleven canvases, deemed landscapes by more categorical historians, are atmospheric and quite literally absorbing; the flat Southern sunlight that infuses the gallery’s front room seeps directly into the dense yellow background of Birches , 2002, a ten-and-a-half-foot-tall canvas hung therein. In the main space, five small, loosely rendered studies for waterscapes, forests, and foliage function like stepping stones towards another strikingly huge canvas, 6:30 AM , 2004. Forcing the eye upward, the 132 square feet of near-monochromatic white branches is both impressive and harrowingly void. In this space, the most engaging canvases are not Katz’s immense treetops or bucolic fields, but two muted, gray color fields, Blizzard 1 and Blizzard 2, both 2005. More approachable in size, this cool diptych depicts an arguably urban skyline at two nighttime moments. In each image, a tier of scattered rectangular windows are illuminated by a warm interior light; the saturated glow of the first scene becomes hazy in the second, defining a passage of time and narrating the mounting storm. Through this so-called “turn to landscape,” Katz has softened his line and reduced figuration to mere traces.