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Heads Up! New mural joins La Jolla’s public art program

Four different facial expressions of American choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones against a stark yellow background make up the most recent panorama in the public Murals of La Jolla program. Created by artist Alex Katz, “Bill 2” is located at 7540 Fay Ave., and replaces the controversial “Sexy Cash” mural.

Of the artist, Murals of La Jolla curator Lynda Forsha said: “Alex Katz is a luminary in the art world, renowned for his signature use of bold color and simplified compositions. His work, which is so graphic in nature, brings a striking and new dimension to our project.

“This is the fourth mural on this particular site, so Katz’s portrait of Bill T. Jones commands our attention, but also reminds us that there is a collective memory surrounding the project after 10 years, and that artworks by Mark Bradford, Gajin Fujita and Anya Gallaccio also once graced this same wall.”

New York City-based artist Alex Katz Courtesy Vivien Bittencourt

Of the process behind this particular image, Katz told La Jolla Light: “I was doing a series of paintings with big faces on yellow grounds and they were getting more and more complicated, and these are the most complicated with the single and the double and the single. These images were done from life as original images and just repeated.”

The subject Jones, whom Katz described as “very beautiful and very unusual-looking,” is an American ballet and modern dance choreographer known for his on- and off-Broadway works. Jones is the winner of the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Visibility Award, 2013 National Medal of Arts to a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.

The artist statement reads: “Executed in Katz’s bold and simplified signature style, ‘Bill 2’ depicts Jones’ visage, through a series of distinct expressions. The repetition of his face has a cinematic and lyrical quality, reinforcing his place in the world of dance, music and film. Portions of the face are dramatically cropped, giving the viewer only quick and gestural glimpses of Jones.”

Given the mural’s proximity to the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, which houses dance performances and concerts, the mural also “gives a nod to the interconnected worlds of art, music, and dance,” the statement continues.

About the artist

No stranger to public art, Katz has participated in several New York-based projects, including “Art Adds,” through which he created works to place atop taxi cabs rather than advertisements; a 28-by-53-foot mural over the Bowery Bar; and a mural produced for the Arts in Transit program in Chicago, which now sits in the interior of a Harlem transit station.

According to his biography, Katz was born in Brooklyn in 1927 and moved to Queens the next year. Known for figurative paintings, sculptures and prints, Katz began making large-scale paintings with cropped faces in the early 1960s. His subjects are often his wife, Ada, and other artists, poets, art critics and dancers.

Over the span of his career, Katz has had more than 200 solo and 500 group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. His work can be found in the permanent collections of major museums throughout the world. Katz continues to live and work in New York City.

About Murals of La Jolla

Founded by the La Jolla Community Foundation, the Murals of La Jolla program is now under the auspices of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library. Its goal is to enhance the civic character of the community by commissioning public art projects on private property throughout La Jolla.

The Murals’ Art Advisory Committee is composed of chiefs from San Diego’s major visual arts organizations who commission artists to propose murals. Each work is on view for a minimum of two years and has been funded by private donations.

The Athenaeum hosts free walking tours to explore all 16 murals. The next is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 29 (meet at the Athenaeum, 1008 Wall St.). Tour-takers learn about each artist and the type of work they make beyond the Murals of La Jolla Project. To learn more, visit muralsoflajolla.com

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