Picks and Pans Review: Alex Katz

updated 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/04/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Ann Beattie

At first glance, it seems an ideal match: paintings by Katz reproduced in a book with text by Beattie. His paper-doll people, painted in flat, pretty colors might be characters in a Beattie story. But Katz's paintings, as they are presented in a book instead of mural size, seem trivial cartoons, '60s Pop Art, obvious and boring. And Beattie makes comments such as, "Well, here we are, in the decade when the delivery boy of the Whitman's Sampler has come back reincarnated as Keith Haring's cookie-cutter man carrying the big heart that symbolizes love, and no one wants to appear silly except on purpose." Or, "Abstractions (love, intimacy) are difficult to convey without some narrative, and the near photographic freeze-frames that Katz is so fond of have to rely more on archetype and symbolism than on a consecutive narrative, acted out or defined by the order in which it is presented." Beattie is a brilliant fiction writer. Here, her words are as tedious as the reproductions of Katz's bland paintings. (Abrams, $27.50)

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