Label Text: The poet Kenneth Koch's immense and thoughtful eyes confront the viewer from behind thick eyeglasses. Although lines on the lenses indicate reflections, they do not impede our direct connection with the sitter's penetrating gaze. The artist presents Koch frontally, up close to the picture plane and larger than life. To emphasize the two dimensional surface, Katz uses flat areas of pink on half of the face to show presence of light. Closely cropped like a photograph, Katz puts a modern twist on the age-old tradition of the portrait.
Alex Katz has spent much of his career creating modern, but realistic portraits, primarily of his family and close friends. Abstract as well as representational, he simplifies the sitter's forms and features, while enlarging and dramatically cropping the image. Despite the extreme close-up view, his figures seem isolated in their space and in their thoughts. In addition, Katz's use of broad, flat areas of pure color create portraits that resemble billboards and other forms of 20th-century advertising.