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?
Many of his artworks are accompanied by Alexander’s cogent, thoughtful commentary. His views on politics, religion and the human condition form a third body of work, an illustration in words.
In text posted with his 2002 watercolor "Marabou Stork," he notes: "Not one day since I was born, has the landscape gained an inch. Every single day habitat is lost, and species are vanishing at an alarming rate."
"John Alexander’s life-long fascination with the natural world," observes SAAM’s director Elizabeth Broun, "connects his work with subjects of deep meaning throughout America."
"John Alexander: A Retrospective" is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through March 16, 2008.
( John Alexander, Dancing on the Water Lilies of Life , 1988, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. Claude Albritton and the Museum League Purchase Fund © John Alexander)