“John Alexander at Corcoran Gallery of Art,” Express Night Out

Bringing District Arts Abroad:
John Alexander at Corcoran Gallery of Art

by Amy Cavanaugh, EXPRESS NIGHT OUT

Political careers aren’t the only kind born in D.C. Painter John Alexander credits the city with starting his ascent in the art world. He displayed his work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s 35th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting in 1977, after then-Corcoran curator Jane Livingston visited Texas and saw his work.

“Few Texas artists, except maybe Robert Rauschenberg, had gotten much recognition outside the region, so it was my big break,” Alexander recalls.

The Biennial segued into a solo show at the Corcoran, leading to connections with a New York gallery and effectively launching Alexander”s career. His newest affiliation with the gallery begins next month, when he travels to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to be an artist in residence, teaching painting and drawing for several weeks at the Corcoran”s partner school, Escuela de Bellas Artes. It’s a change for the artist, who taught at the University of Houston from 1971 to 1978 but who has focused mostly on creating his own art since then — particularly paintings and drawings.

Drawing is a topic Alexander is passionate about, and he plans to address it in a lecture at the Corcoran on Thursday. “We need to understand the importance of drawing to the structural foundation to what makes art great,” Alexander says. “If you look through the long history of art, from Egyptian art to the Renaissance, the importance of drawing has always been paramount in culture.”

He adds that it’s a shame how little art education is currently taught in schools. “We sit through calculus and physics, but what form of enlightenment comes from understanding square root?” he says. “But understanding what makes people see and feel passion comes about from looking and studying and working with great art — that’s life-changing.”