Presentation Title

JOHN ALEXANDER: GROTESQUE SOCIAL COMMENTARY

Faculty Mentor

Marilyn Dunn PhD, Paula Wisotzki PhD

Start Date

18-11-2017 10:45 AM

End Date

18-11-2017 11:00 AM

Location

15-1802

Session

Interdisciplinary 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explore contemporary artist John Alexander’s oeuvre in relation to his prominence as a painter of moral landscapes and the social commentary generated by his work. An art historian at heart, Alexander often draws from other artists as inspiration. He creates his own take on their techniques while adding elements of satire. As a consequence of this satirical lens, he is able to eloquently illustrate society’s flaws through the motifs of the human-beast hybrid, masks, and skeletons. By doing so, Alexander partakes in a long tradition of artists’ use of the grotesque to critique religion and society. He strives to show “nature at its grandest and man at his worst.” I will compare select works of Alexander to artists such as Francisco Goya, James Ensor, and Hieronymus Bosch in order to illustrate the satirical function of the grotesque. Alexander said that while creating his work he “[...] consciously thought of [himself] as an observer of the human condition.” His function as an observer allows him to unabashedly create compelling societal critiques. The findings of this paper are based on textual sources, including interviews of the artist, as well as the paintings themselves. In conclusion, this paper expands upon the public understanding of contemporary artist Alexander in order to more fully realize both his inspiration from other artists and the critiques that form from the satirical elements of the grotesque in his art.

Summary of research results to be presented

John Alexander’s status as a painter of moral landscapes and social commentary generator is supported through the following examples. Alexander critiques the art world as being corrupt and driven by money. This is evident in La Casa de los Locos (1991), which comes from his “social satire” period, and has the underlying themes of greed, vanity and hypocrisy. Alexander’s art historical influences are observed through the use of the title La Casa de los Locos referencing Goya’s La Casa de los Locos (1812) as a means of using satirical representation through the composition of their figures with elements of the grotesque. Alexander’s rejection of organized religion originates from his southern Baptist upbringing, in which he witnessed hypocrisy and racism. This critique is illustrated in Ship of Fools (2006-2007). In this work, ships symbolize churches, thus the portrayal of the ship being tossed around by the waves highlights the church’s vulnerability. His use of satire to critique religion stems from the influence of Hieronymus Bosch’s Ship of Fools (1491). Whilst the two works share the same title and subject, they differ in styles. Alexander’s status as a painter of moral landscapes is exemplified in Parade (2006), the work illustrates a doomsday situation in which the audience becomes aware of their immoral selves. Parade was inspired by the techniques and psychological concepts presented in James Ensor’s Christ’s Entry Into Brussels (1889). These are prominent examples of Alexander’s work that emphasize his use of the grotesque to create moral landscapes and satirize society.

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Nov 18th, 10:45 AM Nov 18th, 11:00 AM

JOHN ALEXANDER: GROTESQUE SOCIAL COMMENTARY

15-1802

The purpose of this paper is to explore contemporary artist John Alexander’s oeuvre in relation to his prominence as a painter of moral landscapes and the social commentary generated by his work. An art historian at heart, Alexander often draws from other artists as inspiration. He creates his own take on their techniques while adding elements of satire. As a consequence of this satirical lens, he is able to eloquently illustrate society’s flaws through the motifs of the human-beast hybrid, masks, and skeletons. By doing so, Alexander partakes in a long tradition of artists’ use of the grotesque to critique religion and society. He strives to show “nature at its grandest and man at his worst.” I will compare select works of Alexander to artists such as Francisco Goya, James Ensor, and Hieronymus Bosch in order to illustrate the satirical function of the grotesque. Alexander said that while creating his work he “[...] consciously thought of [himself] as an observer of the human condition.” His function as an observer allows him to unabashedly create compelling societal critiques. The findings of this paper are based on textual sources, including interviews of the artist, as well as the paintings themselves. In conclusion, this paper expands upon the public understanding of contemporary artist Alexander in order to more fully realize both his inspiration from other artists and the critiques that form from the satirical elements of the grotesque in his art.