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Alex Katz

The Red Smile

1963

Artist

Alex Katz (1927-)

Title

The Red Smile

Date

1963

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Overall: 78 7/8 × 115 in. (200.3 × 292.1 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Accession number

83.3

Object Label

In The Red Smile, Alex Katz painted a profile of his wife Ada’s face, set against a smooth red background. Although the portrait bears Ada’s features, it’s simplified, almost billboard-style rendering seems generic—an effect reinforced by its large scale, nearly 7 x 10 feet. Katz’s broad, unmodulated expanses of color resist a three-dimensional reading, which allies his work with Minimalist art that reduced form to bare essentials. The scale of the work, coupled with the cropping of the image and its smooth painting surface, produces an effect that the artist describes as the “immediate sensation you see before you focus.”