John Alexander was puzzling over orchids on a recent morning in the Eaton Fine Art sculpture garden in West Palm Beach.
On a sunny afternoon last month, John Alexander sat in his studio in Amagansett, surveying a boatload of motley figures on a large painting in progress he had titled “Lost Souls.” It was not a group you would want to encounter on your next cruise. The passengers of this open vessel — some of them wearing strange, beaked masks — included a fellow in a kind of dunce cap; several monkeys, who appeared terrified or glum; and a man with a dyspeptic expression who was — it merited a double take — urinating overboard. “It’s always a similar cast of characters,” Mr. Alexander said of the figures, which have appeared, in various guises, in some of his other satirical works. These tend to include “anybody I perceive as dishonest, hypocritical or just generally up to no good,” he said.
An exhibit of Amagansett based artist John Alexander’s paintings also opened on June 15. The colorful, semi-surrealist work demonstrates both a fascination with the natural world — birds in particular — and a satirical sense of humor that pokes fun at the themes of culture. The largest work in the exhibit, which faces the visitor as he enters the gallery, is “Lost Souls”, a cartoonish pastiche that is part Washington Crossing the Delaware, part Raft of the Medusa, with monkeys, beaked carnival masks, and a healthy roasting of organized religion. Alexander, who has also played in the Artists & Writers Softball Game, is represented in both shows.
John Alexander presents a new series of paintings made specifically for the show at Guild Hall Museum.
As artist John Alexander – who splits his time between New York City and Amagansett – gets ready for a solo show at Guild Hall, he takes time out to chat with legendary New York artist and Sagaponack resident Ross Bleckner about politics in art and preshow jitters.
Guild Hall announced its 28th annual Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Awards will honor John Alexander for Visual Arts, Walter Isaacson for Literary Arts, Nathan Lane for Performing Arts, and Melville (Mickey) Straus, who will receive the Special Award for Leadership and Philanthropy.
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.
It is the first day of the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and I am in my car with John Alexander. Like most of the music-loving tourists in town, he is dressed in jeans and sneakers and armed with a camera bag, but unlike them, and pretty much everybody else we both know, we are not headed in the direction of the fairgrounds.
JOHN ALEXANDER grew up in Beaumont, in east Texas, birthplace of Big Oil. So his retrospective now on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, featuring nearly 100 works from the past 30 years, represents something of a homecoming for the 62-year-old artist. Although he left Texas for New York City in 1979, Alexander’s work has always been informed by the years he spent exploring the swamps, bayous and industrial ghettos in and around Beaumont.
Sharp-eyed satirist, deft observer of the natural world, accomplished draftsman, frenzied expressionist—as an artist, John Alexander is hard to pin down. In his 40-year career, he has gone through periods in which he’s turned a critical eye on the social and political scene; years when he’s dedicated himself to honing his drawing skills to the level of an Old Master; times of painting lush landscapes, bursting still lifes, and churning seascapes; and an explosive phase in the late 1970s and early ’80s when it seemed he was about to transform into a full-blown abstractionist