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Artist

Alex Katz (1927-)

Title

Eli

Date

1963

Medium

Oil on linen

Dimensions

Overall: 73 5/8 × 95 5/16 in. (187 × 242.1 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Fischbach

Accession number

64.37

Object Label

During the early 1960s, in paintings such as Eli, Alex Katz began working on a billboard scale in a broad horizontal format, dramatically cropping his subjects and applying the paint in a smooth, almost commercial manner. Eli depicts the son of Lois Dodd, a fellow artist and friend who shared an early gallery show with Katz in 1953. Katz has said that he was particularly taken with Eli’s "English complexion,” the faint blush in his pale skin.” Placed in a flat, shallow space devoid of descriptive or painterly detail, the portrait communicates a reductive, almost emotionless state. Katz does not reveal Eli’s personality or intimate his interior life. Similarly, he avoids any reference to a particular time or place. In the simplification of his subject’s features and use of flat, unmodulated colors, Katz relates his paintings to his early training as a graphic designer, with the resulting images often suggesting traditions of illustration and fashion photography.