Alex Katz is so cool. Not hot-new-thing-out-of-Brooklyn cool. Icy cool. Unironic cool. It-is-what-it-is cool. His Small Paintings
-- portraits, landscapes and still lifes -- are so stark and straightforward that they become almost transcendent. Katz isn't playing any tricks on us. He isn't trying to lure us into some provocative puzzle. He's not bombarding us with emotion. He's simply offering uncluttered paintings of pretty things. A pair of women's legs shown from the calf down. A bearded man holding his hand to his chin. Branches with a few leaves clinging to them. And lots of portraits of beautiful woman with straight black hair. None of the subject matter is extraordinary. It's the sort of stuff we see around us all our lives. But by rendering it in the barest minimum of brush strokes, Katz manages to reacquaint us with its beauty. The message would be maddeningly glib if it weren't so profoundly true: Paint is beautiful; the world is beautiful; how beautiful the painted world.