"You take a canvas, divide it up like a checkerboard... and go from there." - Man Ray

Alex Katz: Five Hours
Alex Katz: Five Hours
About the film
  • Year
  • Categories
  • Duration 20 minutes
  • Producers Vivien Bittencourt, Alex Katz, Checkerboard Film Foundation
  • Directors Vivien Bittencourt, Alex Katz

When Alex Katz paints one of his large, signature paintings, it is an act of the utmost concentration, a performance in which he draws on years of experience as well as preliminary sketches, painted studies, finished drawings, and a large charcoal cartoon, as he transfers the bare bones of the image to his canvas. It is only then is he set to paint — he usually finishes his paintings within the span of a day.

In this case, he paints the six-by-fourteen foot January III in five hours, as his son, Vincent Katz, and daughter-in-law, Vivien Bittencourt, film him.

This painting furnishes an ideal example of Katz’s technique, as we witness, in separate panels of a triptych framework, spontaneous passages of tree branches and the controlled modeling of a large face of his wife, Ada, the subject of many of Katz’s paintings.

We also observe the artist’s famous portrait style, as well as the landscape style for which Katz has been acclaimed.

The filmmakers decided against the use of dialogue; the painter is accompanied only by the music of composer and theater artist Meredith Monk.

This film captures the essence of Katz, that quality Robert Storr of the Museum of Modern Art defines as the unquantifiable “cool”, in a dazzling and moving display of commitment to the experience of painting.

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