28 January 2008

John Alexander

Texas claims three giant sons of the modern art movement of the 20th century: Robert Rauschenberg, Julian Schnabel, and John Alexander. Of the three, Alexander is the least known, and possibly, the one who remained closest to his Texan roots. Born in Beaumont and educated at SMU in Dallas, Alexander ended up in Houston, a professor at the University of Houston during the 70s. And although he's been in NYC for 30 years, his Texas ties remain strong and show up time and again in his art work. Affable and endearing, Alexander's art is known for it's humor and societal commentary. Not easily categorized, he is as famous for landscapes and nature studies as he is for his satirical commentaries on everyday life. Recent works of birds resemble a modern day Audubon, and his flower canvases rival any 18th century botanical study.

A retrospective of John Alexander's work is now underway in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum through March. After that time, the show will be on display at the Houston Museum of Arts, a fitting place for one of Texas' prodigal sons. The New York Social Diary today featured a recently held celebratory party given at the museum for Alexander. The reception was filled with the high society names that support the arts with their pocketbook. There is one major dissenter to all the rave reviews the retrospective is getting: the Washington Post's Blake Gopnik panned the show in a scathing review here. Despite this, Houstonians are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Alexander and his paintings. His fans here are legendary, as are his friends. Below are images of paintings by Alexander, some for sale and some sold in auction recently.

John Alexander on the right with Caroline Kennedy and her husband Edward Schlossberg at the reception for his retrospective at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum.

"Hiding from the taxman," 1986

"Man with two lives," 2007.


Recent nature study, influenced by Alexander's country home on Long Island, NY. I love this painting.


Oil by Alexander.

Early landscape by Alexander.



"Wine and roses," 2006.

"Fires of Xanadu," 1991, recently sold at auction for $17,250.00


"Christina's world," 1986, recently sold at auction for $19,550.00


Alexander's haunting "Topsy Turvy"


"The great horned owl." Recently sold at auction for $12,650.



"Troubled waters"


"Salwatch in the bois de boulogne." Recently auctioned off for $26,400.


"Keep your feet close to the fire."



Alexander and the singer, Paul Simon, at the reception in Washington.


Photo from the retrospective. You can get a feel for the size of the some of the canvases from this picture.


The famous painting, "Melon fields" from the retrospective.

A close up detail of "Melon fields."

The catalogue of the retrospective can be purchased from Amazon books.

And, finally, a bit of fun: native Houstonians may remember Alexander and this piece of gossip - he was once rumored to be the boyfriend of Houston's widowed, long-time mayor Kathryn Whitmire. In actuality, they were probably more friends than lovers. Whitmire was famous for her big glasses, power suits and neckties, and a peculiar resemblance to Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie.

Former mayor of Houston, Kathryn Whitmire, aka Tootsie. Long time friend of John Alexander's.

Today, Whitmire no longer in politics, lives in Hawaii. Obviously, she's also thrown away her powers suits and grown out her hair. Thank God!