Alex Katz, A Young 97 Year Old Painter
by Antonio Grulli

Diary from the Venice Biennale 2:
how old is the painting? Amidst our hectic
schedules, we were all wondering this
one thing a week ago and the answer
was: very young. And how old is the
American painter Alex Katz, one of the
greatest living masters? He is also very
young. His ID says he was born in 1927,
but his painting – and the painting does
not lie – speaks of a very young artist.
The common belief is that artists reach
their creative peaks at a young age, a
period in which they would create their
most revolutionary works, and then
generally begin a slow decline or a
stabilization of their work in tired,
dragged-out styles, beyond what is
necessary. Many artists, however, are
capable of maintaining a continuous
evolution, and in the case of some giants,
we even witness surprisingly
revolutionary twists in old age.
In this regard, it is enough to
consider the Black Paintings in which
Goya achieves timeless
and unforgettable work, or the cycle of
Monet’s Water Lilies, in which the master
of impressionism surpasses the young
painters of the time to anticipate the
informal, as well as Titian’s last period
when his subjects seem to fall apart to
become pure light and atmosphere. The
same thing happens with Alex Katz: his
painting is very fresh, agile and carefree,
much more than that of the overwhelming
majority of young painters, and still eager
for experimentation. This is confirmed by
the current exhibition at the Giorgio Cini
Foundation, curated by Massimo Barbero.
Among the rooms of the show, two are
particularly wonderful and exemplary: in
the first, there are very large black
canvases on which long or clotted white
brushstrokes become a symphony on the
waters and oceans. The second room,
however, has grass and fields as its
subject. Katz gives us a lesson on how,
with practically abstract canvases
rendered with very few elements, it is
possible to reveal the poetic truth of the
reality around us.