Waterville, MAINE, August 19, 2022—Alex Katz: Theater and Dance is the first comprehensive museum exhibition of artist Alex Katz’s highly collaborative and playful work with choreographers, dancers, and members of avant-garde theater ensembles. The exhibition will be on view at the Colby Museum through February 19, 2023.
Organized with the guidance of Katz and his studio, and in collaboration with consulting curator Robert Storr, Alex Katz: Theater and Dance offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience Katz’s designs and artistic process. The exhibition also demonstrates how painting and design for the stage have intertwined in Katz’s work.
It was Katz’s abiding interest in dance and experimental theater that led to his work in set and costume design. As he found his artistic footing, Katz gained entrée into the circle of painters, poets, critics, dancers, and musicians loosely identified as the New York School. In 1959, he began his decades-long collaboration with dancer and choreographer Paul Taylor, devising his breakthrough “cutouts,” two-dimensional sculptures that informed his vision for the stage.
In Katz’s words: “the experience [of collaborating with Paul Taylor] expanded the idea of what I could do. You’re not just a painter, you’re a person who has an idea about the art. Once you get that through your head, you have an expanded way of dealing even with your painting.”
Katz and Taylor ultimately partnered on 16 productions, an enduring creative relationship that yielded some of the most significant post-modern dance of the 20th century and led the artist to collaborations with other companies including Yoshiko Chuma, Laura Dean, William Dunas, and Parsons Dance.
Throughout his many theater and dance collaborations, Katz has challenged the conventional while bringing his recognizable style to performance. Alex Katz: Theater and Dance brings together never before exhibited sketches from the artist’s collection and major sets and paintings related to various productions, as well as rare archival materials from Paul Taylor Dance Company. Together, these will show Katz introducing tenets of postwar painting into dance and theater aesthetics, foregrounding the deep inspiration he has drawn from a prolonged study of performance.
The Colby Museum is a leading institutional steward of Katz’s artistic legacy. In 1992, the artist donated more than 400 of his works to the museum, and in 1996, the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz opened, making the Colby Museum one of the few in the United States with a wing devoted solely to the work of a single living artist. The museum’s collection now includes more than 900 works by Katz, as well as a trove of archival material related to the Katz Collection, available for use by students and researchers.
In recent decades, Katz has expanded his support of other visual artists through the Alex Katz Foundation, which has donated nearly five hundred outstanding artworks to the Colby College Museum of Art. As a companion to Alex Katz: Theater and Dance, the museum will present All in One: Selections from the Alex Katz Foundation Collection, opening September 20 on the lower level of the Jetté Galleries. The exhibition will explore the idea of visual polyphony through artworks that create unexpected unities and harmonies; use materials to invite multisensory, bodily experiences; and explore dance and choreography by putting patterns of movement into action.
Katz is also the subject of Alex Katz: Gathering, a major career retrospective which opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on October 21, and the Colby Museum’s Katz Collection will be amply represented in this historic exhibition.
Alex Katz: Theater and Dance is accompanied by a robust series of public and academic programs and by a groundbreaking and beautifully illustrated catalogue, co-published with Rizzoli Electra, with contributions by Charlie Reinhart, David Salle, Robert Storr, Jennifer Tipton, and Diana Tuite, as well as the artist himself.
The exhibition and catalogue are generously supported by Betsy and Edward Cohen/Areté Foundation, Brendan Dugan, and Thaddaeus Ropac. Additional support is provided by the 25th Anniversary Fund, and the Edward H. Turner Art Exhibition Fund, and the Mirken Family Publications Fund.
About Alex Katz
Alex Katz (b. 1927), an alumnus of Cooper Union and the Skowhegan School of Painting in Maine, is one of America’s most inventive, committed, and prolific artists. Since the 1950s, he has divided his time between New York and Maine, drawing from both locales to continually reinvent the genres of portraiture and landscape painting. From the outset of his career, he has been recognized for synthesizing opposing tendencies in mid-century art—the abstract and the popular—by creating images that boldly experiment with perceptions of light, color, gesture, and scale.
Katz has collaborated with, and deeply impacted, generations of visual artists, poets, and choreographers in New York, contributing to its thriving art scenes for over seven decades. His art has been the subject of more than 250 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions internationally since the start of his career, and his work can be found in more than 100 public collections worldwide.
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About Colby College Museum of Art
Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art is a teaching museum, a destination for American art, and a place for education and engagement with local, national, and global communities. Part of Colby College, the museum is located in Waterville, Maine, and actively contributes to Colby’s curricular and co-curricular programs and to the region’s quality of life. It inspires connections between art and people through distinctive exhibitions, programs, and publications and through an outstanding collection that emphasizes American art and contemporary art within holdings that span cultures and time periods. The Colby Museum actively seeks to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and access across all of its work and to advocate for the community value of art, artists, and museums in engaging with today’s most vital questions.