Brand-New & Terrific
The early work of artist Alex Katz is the subject of a major exhibition at the Colby College Museum of Art.
In July, the Colby College Museum of Art will open Brand- New and Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s, an exhibition that explores the first decade of the artist’s career, a period characterized by experimentation and innovation from which his signature style emerged. As the first museum survey to focus on Katz’s work from this formative decade, the exhibition, curated by the museum’s Katz Curator, Diana Tuite, draws from Colby’s extensive Katz collection and will include several rarely seen loans from the artist’s and other public and private collections. Katz has strong roots in Maine; he began summering here in 1949. “Maine was liberatory for Katz, as it has been for so many other artists,” says Tuite. “It gave him the distance that he needed from the New York art scene, while also offering him a direct connection to other artistic traditions. This breathtaking place furnished him with an environment in which he could experiment and, ultimately, flourish.” The exhibition represents a unique opportunity for Colby to take the lead in revisiting the early career of a major artist at a moment when he is more popular and relevant than ever. “This loan exhibition builds on and contextualizes our deep holdings of work by Katz—and the many international artists who influenced him or have been inspired by him—and will prompt audiences to see postwar figurative painting in a new light,” says Tuite.
Installed chronologically in the museum’s 8,000-square-foot Paul J. Schupf Wing, Brand-New and Terrific will feature more than 60 paintings, collages, and cutouts that trace Katz’s technical and stylistic evolution over the course of the 1950s. The exhibition takes its name from Katz’s 1961 manifesto “Brand-New and Terrific,” which affirmed his intentions to find the contemporary in the traditional form of painting. “What is especially significant about this work,” says Tuite, “is how much it enriches our understanding of the fluid and adaptive exchanges taking place in the 1950s between New York School painters and artists like Katz who were working within a more figurative tradition.” On the following pages, MH+D presents a preview.