Catalog Essay for
STEVEN ALEXANDER: TERRAPLANE
Gremillon & Co. Fine Art, Houston
February 21 - March 17, 2013
THE PAINTINGS OF STEVEN ALEXANDER
There is something inevitable and irresistible about Steven Alexander's new paintings at Gremillion & Co., Houston.
He calls this show and this body of work Terraplane, a made up word taken from a Robert Johnson song, Terraplane Blues. For Alexander, it is an interesting combination of words that refer to the feminine, sensual earth and to the "picture plane", the most fundamental fact, common to all painting.
In this new work the picture plane is not so much painted a color, as it is a color. Alexander has transformed his surface and it’s components into a natural object of awe and beauty. The paintings are built of architectural elements, of simple, pure structures. Like the architect Louis Kahn, Alexander is creating temples and monuments, structures that provide stability to the heart and soul. In one painting, which Alexander calls Infiltrator, his composition nearly disappears into the whole, and the effect is particularly sober and grand. As is Alexander’s’ way, it is a composition made of blocks of color, which he seems to have physically placed and arranged side by side. These rectilinear shapes are colored weights that have been measured, and their precise tints and proportions considered repeatedly. Many layers of paint are applied before he "finds" the harmonies between the shapes and the surface that creates the final image.
Alexander is a classicist looking for a perfect poetic moment, a moment that contains movement but has found stillness, and is eternal. He takes us into the realm of the sublime by simultaneously holding together two opposing forces, solid surface and shapes lifting and hovering within the same resonant rectangle of the painting. Alexander’s structures are as ancient as they are new, expressed through the perfect alignment of one shape next to another. He puts forth, that beauty is among the great truths that endures. The well-tuned balance of tone and hue, the muted colors and perfect pitch of these works makes one feel comfortable among them, as if they have always been here, and are as elemental and natural as moss or rock. In my imagination I hear Alexander softly saying to his audience " I will soothe the tired eyes of our time, and provide a path to the future".
For me, a long time admirer of Alexander’s work, these paintings signal a new found courage and confidence that has enabled him to let go, do less, and therefore by the strange logic of painting, say more. They are silent but demand respect and attention. We trust in their integrity. They are precise and restrained. Their sensuous glow is ultimately reassuring and deeply satisfying.
Eric Holzman, 2013
Eric Holzman is an award winning painter who lives and works in New York City.