Jamian Juliano-Villani on Alex Katz

Alex Katz, Picnic at the Beach, 1960, watercolor and colored-paper collage, 4 5⁄8 × 5 1⁄4

SOMEONE TOLD ME Alex Katz swims every day. It makes sense, the strokes of wet-on-wet paint building up like laps across the canvas, a form of exercise. At the beginning of the show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum are small, framed collages, the root of Katz’s eye for looking at things. The masterpieces are at the top.

The large, billboard-scale paintings are so easy and confident. The paintings feel like a sunny day in a fast-moving car. They are like memories, fleeting but significant, always at the edge of sentimentality but never crossing the line. They stay conversational, familiar, and vague.

But it’s really all about how they’re painted. The brushstrokes are economical. Katz, the man himself, is the fastest-moving turtle in a trash pile. These paintings are smart and dumb, seemingly clueless, yet the clarity in them glitters with egoless, watchful simplicity.

Jamian Juliano-Villani is a New York–based artist and a cofounder of the gallery O’Flaherty’s .

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