Catalog essay for the exhibition


Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, Houston

January 21 - February 20, 2010

Brooks Run to the Ocean...

The Paintings of Steven Alexander

"My work should be like a poem set to music by a painter . . .

a sort of secret language,

formed from an alphabet of enchantment..."

-Joan Miró, on his work, Constellations, 1940

Though the medium of painting is a certain visual ordering on an ideal plane, it is feeling that determines the form of the pictorial structure. Cezanne believed this to be true. To see, and feel, the actual accumulation of an artist’s existence -- the torments of van Gogh, Seurat’s silent harmonies, the suggestion of self in Miró’s beautiful grounds. Painting is a means.

Steven Alexander creates work within a process driven by purity. His richly hued, geometric surfaces imbue a concrete and sensitive love for his medium that never distorts the medium’s essential nature, but rather respects its every nuance of being, as one respects a lover. He cannot let go.

In this show of his latest works, Alexander employs a sensitivity to the figure and ground relationship at the beginning of his process, much like Rothko, the collages of Klee, and the watercolors of Cezanne. Within the large color field, or along its outer edges, two vertical bars of shifting hue rest, relating constantly and concurrently to each other and to the larger field. The reactionary surface implodes, and hovers, in perceptive tension. In this way, Alexander uses scale and value relations to weave the image together on the plane. The subtle balancing suggests an element of metaphysical surrender as color resonates seductively amidst the intervals and boundaries of the contained geometric forms, and on into the larger field, never to be truly reconciled. Or, is it? The opulent, pulsing hues continually shift as they encounter, confront, submit.

Creating objects of passions, it is no wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing relations; veering always toward the unknown, relying on order and relativity to unearth intent. Matisse investigated an effect of purity and directness of feeling in abstraction with his concept of intense colors as independent forces. Mondrian delineated the universal form of nonfigurative painters, of true reality, into transcendence. The layers of history inevitably merge and accumulate. Steven Alexander is a consummate colorist whose miracle is in the pure embrace of his aesthetic, his relentless construction and deconstruction of relationships. These paintings become keys, perhaps, to contemplation in much the same way that great music, or poetry does, and a metaphor for all of us who are compelled to labor in the realm of the poetic.

These are the paintings of Steven Alexander.

-Kate Beck, December, 2009

Kate Beck is a visual artist living and working on the coast of Maine. She publishes KATE BECK :: ART NOTES, a weblog about contemporary art.