Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 11.26.13 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Adam Harrison Levy

Artist’s Cookbook: Alex Katz



Photo by David Needleman

Editor's Note: This is the second in a six-part series from Adam Harrison Levy about designers, artists and cooking. To see all the installments, click here.

When it comes to food, Alex Katz keeps it simple. His first job was as a frame carver. He ate the same lunch every day: “a quarter pound of Munster cheese on a white roll and an apple.” He relates this story in a deadpan voice, waits for a reaction, and then lets out a short contained laugh, as he can’t quite believe his own experience.

Food is utilitarian for Katz. In a 1977 interview he admits that his mother was a good cook but that “you didn’t ask for food in my house, and you didn’t comment on it. You ate it or you didn’t.” He enjoyed some classic Jewish deli food, such as corned beef on rye and liverwurst with mustard on rye, but to him, “American cheese on white is the ultimate. To me as a kid it represented the straight world.” Food, in other words, was the gateway to the prevailing culture.

As a young artist he embraced the larger world in other ways as well. He was attracted to a range of art practices that were cool and detached ― bebop, the choreography of Paul Taylor, the poetry of John Ashbery and the music of Stan Getz, “all that stuff is impersonal ― with fantastic technique.”

Simplicity and style are the hallmarks of his painting. “I like impersonal painting. I don’t like passionate painting.” He prefers Manet to Cezanne. He didn’t arrive at his detached style accidentally (nothing about Katz seems accidental); it arose from his break from the overwhelming dominance of the abstract expressionists in the 1950s. Katz’s early paintings walk the innovative line between abstraction and realism ― in fact, they integrate both. “The abstract expressionists were all about form and content. It was all a big drag. When you listen to bebop, to Stan Getz, its cool. But its lyric.”

Katz himself is trim, almost sinewy. There is more than a trace of a dancer’s athleticism and grace about him. His large paintings take an enormous amount of stamina and sheer physicality to make and Katz is not shy about describing the demands that they take or his level of pure proficiency. “I dare anyone to compete on a craft level,” he said in 1996, “painting a twenty foot painting, wet on wet for six hours. You have to know what you are doing. That’s a master craftsman. Real high craft. Spartans had swords.”


Anna Wintour, 2009 © Alex Katz.  "I like impersonal painting. I don't like passionate painting." Katz prefers Manet to Cezanne.

That sense of a spare, focused craft, achieved as a result of constant practice is reflected in his food. Lunch is invariably sardines on a roll. This lunch is clearly a descendent of a 1977 recipe where he would take a small loaf of Italian bread, slice it in half lengthwise and arrange the sardines on the bottom half. He would then spread four steamed broccoli florets over the fish and sprinkle both with olive oil and lemon juice before adding salt and pepper to taste. He claimed that this sandwich was his singular invention.

Today, Katz’s choice of recipe is oatmeal. He has eaten the exact same breakfast for the past twenty years. It chimes almost perfectly with his paintings ― impersonal, detached, not at all fussy. One has the sense that the daily, almost Zen-like repetition of his breakfast helps him keep his mind trained on his upcoming day’s work. Katz’s food is consistent but his work continues to evolve.

Alex Katz's Breakfast Recipe

Mix oatmeal (instant) to water by eye
One glass of orange Juice
One banana
One cup of Lipton tea.

A version of this article was originally published on Gourmet Live!
|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Harrison Levy is a writer and freelance documentary film producer and director. He specializes in the art of the interview. For the BBC he has conducted interviews with a wide range of actors, writers, musicians and film-makers including Meryl Streep, Philip Glass, and Paul Auster. He was the U.S. producer for Selling the Sixties, a cultural history of advertising in New York and Close Up, about the artist Chuck Close. He is the author of  essays for Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945, an exhibition at the International Center for Photography, and Saul Leiter: Retrospective. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and in the Film Studies Dept at Wesleyan University. In 2012 he was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.


More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









MORE ON Designer/Artist Cooking Series


Artist’s Cookbook: David Levinthal
David Levinthal's recipes of choice, his mother's brisket and her chocolate roll, are both nostalgic and riddled with more complex meanings.

Artist’s Cookbook: Kiki Smith
Kiki Smith takes the body and turns it inside out. She makes art from innards. But she eats salad.

Designer’s Cookbook: Louise Fili
Lousie Fili on her love of Italy, type and food.

Artist’s Cookbook: Joel Meyerowitz
Photographer Joel Meyerowitz's story of marriage and pasta con le sarde.

Artist's Cookbook: April Gornik
Artist April Gornik taught herself to cook from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Designer's Cookbook: George Lois
George Lois designs iconic Esquire covers, but you should hear him talk about food.

RELATED POSTS


The Conceptual Advertising of J.G. Ballard
J.G. Ballard’s conceptual ads anticipated the emergence of culture jamming, subvertising, design fiction and speculative design.

How to Visualize Poetry — And How Not to
Design Observer's poetry editor, Adam Plunkett, gives us a primer on visual poetry.

Found, Cut, and Rearranged: The Art of John Stezaker
For almost four decades, the artist John Stezaker has steadfastly been appropriating “found” press photographs, film stills, imagery from books, old postcards, and the like, to create a strikingly new way of seeing photography.

An Aposiopesis of Black Honey: or Variations on Dürer's Melancholia I
A visual poem from Jess.

The Essence of a Teapot
While the traditional teapot should be at the very least functional — that is, have the ability to hold and pour a liquid, I recently viewed an exhibition that turns all that on end with the “idea of a teapot.”