John Alexander is a contemporary American artist whose work incites a profound message about the dissolution of our political and natural environments. By critiquing our current state of affairs, Alexander’s artworks aim to awaken us to the fact that we must enact change to preserve not only Earth’s plants and animals but also ourselves. From landscapes to still lifes to portraits of political and social figures, Alexander unites his diverse subjects through the intriguing and often satirical portrayal of our ecological and social domains.
Alexander developed his love and appreciation for the natural world while playing in the woods of East Texas, where he was born and raised. During his artistic studies, Alexander watched as the Texas shoreline became commercialized and transformed by the oil industry. This devastation inspired his work and provoked him to illustrate the many immoral encroachments on our natural world. After receiving formal academic training in drawing, painting and art history from Lamar University and Southern Methodist University, he moved to New York in 1979. Despite this change in setting, the Gulf Coast continued to influence and define his work resolutely.
Alexander’s compositions display the beauty inherent to the natural world in a way comparable to historical masters such as Claude Monet and the artists of the Hudson River School. While reminiscent in imagery, Alexander goes beyond the work of these past visionaries to suggest something sinister within each landscape. Illuminating the fragility of our natural world, Alexander depicts birds in dark, confusing backgrounds, murky ponds of koi fish, and mysterious bayous. Although his paintings exhibit humankind’s disfiguring impact on nature, Alexander often includes a hint that there is still hope for a brighter future. Alexander lightens the mood of his artworks with a touch of light peeking through the clouds, or a humorous element embedded within his paintings, suggesting that we can learn from our mistakes to create a harmonious future.
Visually arresting, Alexander also uses figurative painting to express humankind’s immorality. These satirical and allegorical paintings highlight the contradictory, confused nature of the human soul in a spirit similar to the work of Francisco Goya and Hieronymus Bosch. Unleashing his dissection of the human condition, Alexander’s narratives show the predatory nature of political, military, ecclesiastical, and industrial individuals who foolishly abuse their power. By painting those who he views as “dishonest, hypocritical or just generally up to no good,” Alexander both mocks but also confronts our current social-political system. In these works, he paints masks on the figures which hide the real face of the individual he is representing and adds a twisted and dishonest quality to the image. The masks also allow viewers to choose who is behind each, extending Alexander’s critical reflections into both past and contemporary political conditions.
Currently, John Alexander spends his time between New York City and Amagansett, East Hampton. His work has been widely exhibited at the top museums and galleries in the United States including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. His work is also featured in many permanent collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Alexander is also a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts (1984).