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John Alexander: Looking Back

John Alexander is an artist who packs a painterly punch. The power of his vivid, expressive imagery solicits a breath-taking effect, especially in a gallery hung with 40 of his big, bold paintings and 27 of his elegant works on paper.Tomorrow, December 20, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM...

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alexander_dancing_on_the_wa.jpg John Alexander is an artist who packs a painterly punch. The power of his vivid, expressive imagery solicits a breath-taking effect, especially in a gallery hung with 40 of his big, bold paintings and 27 of his elegant works on paper.


Tomorrow, December 20, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) opens the first major, full-scale retrospective encompassing the artist’s three-decade career.

John Alexander (b. 1945), says Eleanor Harvey SAAM’s chief curator, "has a passion for paint." His paintings are a bright profusion of energy and vitality, many of them laced with humor and irony.

In his 1989 "Venus and Adonis," a naked couple is in bed; each figure is backlit by a strange, eerie blaze that threatens to engulf them. They are either engaged in a heated argument or consumed by a fiery passion. Is this a disintegrating marriage or a dangerous liaison?

The titles of his works on paper are subtly narrative. A gnarled vulture casts a dazed glance at the viewer. The work is entitled "Aging Rock Star." Is it a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Keith Richards?
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About Beth Py-Lieberman
Beth Py-Lieberman

Beth Py-Lieberman is the museums editor, covering exhibitions, events and happenings at the Smithsonian Institution. She has been a member of the Smithsonian team for more than two decades.

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