Alex Katz (1927- ) was born in Brooklyn. Though Katz set out to be a commercial artist, he decided to pursue the fine arts instead. His first show was in 1954, and he has continued to exhibit since then. One of his recent shows alex katz: small paintings was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Phillip Morris in October 2001. In the 1950s he was termed an avant-garde painter, best known for his large simple figures in uncertain surroundings. It seemed questionable to him whether an artist could create a portrait that had any meaning, though he also believed that a portrait could compete with a Pollock or a de Kooning. Katz began painting portraits that were liberated from conventions: isolating his figures completely from any setting. He began making life-sized cutout figures shaped to the contours of his subjects' bodies in the late 1950s, and in the 1960s he painted only the upper torsos of his subjects. Most recently, Katz has been painting landscapes that feature dramatic scenes that frequently border on complete abstraction. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972 and the Graphic Design USA Award for a "Time" magazine cover in 1983. Katz's work is included in the permanent collection of numerous institutions such as the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, Chase Manhattan Bank, the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University and the Museum of Modern Art.