John Alexander

Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

The 20 large, oil-on-canvas paintings and eight small, colored pastel-on-paper drawings in this retrospective encompass the last eight years of John Alexander’s career. The artist’s recent paintings hover between figuration and abstraction, tense beauty and jarring ugliness, landscape and ritual enactment. Images bursting forth and radiating from the center are held in check by an allover distribution of signs and lines in a shallow, ambiguous space. The mood varies from anxious to frantic, yet a sense of mystery is maintained by an unresolved but carefully controlled tension between opposites. Like Jackson Pollock before the classic drip paintings, Alexander traps primal symbols in dense webs of paint, but his figures bear closer resemblance to creatures from the natural world. The nets that entangle his beasties are made of straight, spiky, painterly sticks, like birds’ nests, instead

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