Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Summer Bouquet Inspired by an Alex Katz Painting

 The Inspiration: Alex Katz’s 2014 painting ‘4 pm’
 Photo: Alex Katz/Gavin Brown’s enterprise/VAGA,
 New York, NY, Photograph by Thomas Müller
By Lindsey Taylor
WSJ, July 15, 2015

Every summer since 1954, the Brooklyn-born painter Alex Katz has migrated north to the town of Lincolnville, Maine, where he paints large-scale, pared-down landscapes inspired by the countryside. Now 87, Mr. Katz, best known for portraits whose unpainterly flatness anticipated Pop Art, is more popular than ever—through Sept. 6, he’s the subject of a wide-ranging retrospective, “This is Now,” at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

The Arrangement: Feathery white astilbe adds
an evocative softness to a midsummer’s day bouquet,
based on American artist Alex Katz’s 2014 painting ‘4 pm.’
        Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson for WSJ,
Floral styling by Lindsey Taylor, Prop styling by Nidia Cueva
Choosing his work as my jumping-off point for this month’s arrangement seemed a significant floral challenge. His style appears to offer little to work from, no gesture at all. But, the longer I looked, the more I began to appreciate how his zoomed-in focus had a moody, mesmerizing quality that engulfs the viewer, and I saw how I could interpret it.

I chose “4 pm” (2014), a large vertical landscape with elegant brushwork so characteristically reductive it barely registers, coupled with an almost cartoonlike flat line. I loved the palette of chartreuse-yellow, creamy white, grays, brown and a hint of blue for the house.

I happened to have an upright, angular ceramic vessel with similarly emphatic lines and citrus-yellow tint, but what exactly to put in it? A flowery arrangement with showy blooms didn’t feel right: It needed to feel modern and simplified and, above all, mid-summery.

So I went with a selection of just three plants: a dark purple fountain grass that echoed the dark branches in the painting, to frame the left side of the arrangement; white astilbe to suggest the shimmering effect of the water and sky; and the silvery-tan feathery seed heads of the early blooming pulsatilla.

My goal was to mimic the tremulous, late-afternoon light in Mr. Katz’s canvas, with a similarly limited range of colors, reflecting the haze that often settles in the sky on a hot July day.

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