Born on the bayou in east Texas, John Alexander has made an international career as a skilled draftsman, a painter of lush, sometimes violent landscapes, and as a portraitist of the doomed and the demented. Alexander (b. 1945) began seriously studying art at Lamar University in his hometown of Beaumont. An auspicious trip to Chicago found the young artist face to face with what would prove to be lifelong influences, including landscapes from the Hudson River School and a still life by Édouard Manet. After earning an MFA in 1970 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Alexander took a teaching position at the University of Houston, where he became a key figure in the city’s nascent art scene. The fruitful ’70s featured his first mature landscapes, followed by freewheeling sketches and a looser, more expressionistic style of painting.
He moved to New York City in 1979, taking a SoHo loft he still calls home. Relocation led to a sense of artistic freedom and a stronger abstract style. He spent the late ’80s and early ’90s satirizing New York’s obsession with excess and celebrity, in the process gaining more renown of his own. In addition to his continuing fascination with the surreal and humankind at its worst, Alexander’s artistic eye has gravitated toward ruminative still lifes, marshy landscapes, and studied portraits of flora and fauna, particularly the birds flocking to his part-time home on Long Island’s East End. Naturalism and conservation remain hallmarks of his work and life, and he says the Beaumont bayou of his youth is never far from his mind.
Alexander has been widely exhibited, with major shows at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His work can be found in public collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and many others.