DescriptionFROM THE ESTATE OF DR. EDMUND P. PILLSBURY
JOHN ALEXANDER (American, b. 1945)
Fighting Ants, 1997
Pencil on paper
6 x 7-1/4 inches (15.2 x 18.4 cm)
Signed lower right
Beadleston Gallery, New York, May 2001
New York, Beadleston Gallery, John Alexander: Works on Paper, May 3 - May 25, 2001
To say that Ted Pillsbury loved the work of John Alexander would be accurate, but not nearly enough. There was so much about this Beaumont, Texas-born artist and his intensely independent vision--both in the way he chose to make his art and live his life--that resonated with Ted. During the years he was mounting exhibitions at Pillsbury Peters Gallery, Ted wrote many beautiful introductions to the handsome catalogues he produced for most of its shows. But certainly one of the most tender, appreciative, and emotionally powerful of these was the piece he wrote for the show he presented of John Alexander's nature watercolors (March 22 - May 4, 2002). For these reasons, plus simply for the beauty of his language, Ted's text deserves some space here.
"John Alexander is an enigma...[and] defies all conventional labels. He lacks the cynicism of Pop Art, the programmatic imperative of non-figurative painting, or the emotionalism of Neo-expressionism. In a word, he is a Romantic, in the tradition of Blake, Palmer, and Turner, as well as Goya, but he paints with the revolutionary zeal of the young Courbet...
All this makes sense given the unique circumstances of Alexander's upbringing. John was born at the end of the Second World War, to a father who was an oil engineer nearing retirement and a mother three and one-half decades his junior. His early memories were of the countless hours spent in the local Baptist church as a choirboy and acolyte, from whose fundamentalism he rebelled at an early age, and the fishing expeditions conducted with his father through the swampy marshlands of the Bayou on the Gulf Coast in search of exotic fauna and wildlife. Alexander remained in rural isolation in southeast Texas for high school and college before entering Graduate School at Dallas' S.M.U. in 1969, where he stubbornly adhered to traditional painting in defiance of the predominant interest in minimalism and conceptual art among his fellow students. Upon graduation John moved to Houston and took up a position as a member of the art faculty of the University of Houston. His work from this period reflected his growing distrust of the church and his awareness of the racial and social hypocrisies vested in many institutions...Not surprisingly, he steered his art away from nature, except as a metaphor for some human foible, and more in the direction of highly-satirical narratives...that tended to debunk rather then idealize its subjects. Then, in the late seventies, fueled as much by ambition as by rebellion, Alexander forsook Texas for New York, first Soho and later the idyllic hamlet of Amagansett on the south shore of Long Island where he settled in an eighteenth-century farmhouse on three acres of land by the sea and joined the local brigade of firefighters. In this latter refuge, so reminiscent of his rural Bayou roots, Alexander rekindled his love of nature,...and began creating his own version of Monet's Giverny, complete in this case with a pond surrounded by rich vegetation and flowering plants...The subject of his work evolved from political and social satire to...nature as a metaphor for good and evil, life and death, decay and destruction...He became a great landscape and still-life artist whose aptitude for realism...has drawn justifiable comparisons with the naturalism of so great a forbearer as Albrecht Durer."
In apparently good condition, aside from faint mat and light staining, surface soiling probably due to artistic process, not examined out of frame
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2017 October 13 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas