The art of stripes
Conyers-born painter Don Alexander has spent decades investigating the possibilities of line and color. That preoccupation is on display in 200 Stripe Paintings by Don Alexander at Saltworks Gallery. Alexander's fugue on the stripe dominates the room with 23-inch-by-35-inch acrylic and paper paintings stacked one on top of the other to form 10- and 12-foot tall sonatas of delirious color. Though Alexander's stripes are old school, their slightly hallucinogenic feel has become new again (as in artist Jeremy Blake's stripes-gone-Hollywood sequences for Punch Drunk Love), thus giving Alexander's work an added veneer of hipness.
Boiling painting down to its essence, Alexander manages a surprising array of emotions and moods in this work ranging from the late '70s to 2003.
His combinations of stripes painted against colorful backgrounds can look like pure abstraction — just hypnotic colors that, like British schoolchildren, play nice together. But his paintings can also evoke a representational continuum from the more tangible to the merely suggestive: jet streams against blue skies, tie-dye, EKGs, TV static, vintage textiles, ribbons of red arteries and blue veins, even a picnic in one panel of watermelon and hamburger shades. The colors go from purely synthetic nuclear pinks and techno lemons to the mellow, weathered earth tones of a 1950s shirtwaist dress.
The variety of paints gives the works a remarkable individuality with textures ranging from matte to metallic, from chalky to fibrous. Playing with the possibilities of light as much as color, the paintings reflect light, or absorb it into their color voids. Some pulsate with energy and some have the metronymic, staid regularity of a grandfather clock.
Saltworks curator Brian Holcombe and Alexander have generously agreed to give all proceeds from the sale of the artist's work to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. Holcombe says his reasons for donating the money were twofold. On one hand he wanted to show "that a venue like MOCA GA has value, and it's something that has to be around." On the other hand, he hopes his conspicuous display of giving to another art institution will show by example.
200 Stripe Paintings by Don Alexander runs through Dec. 24 at Saltworks Gallery, 635 Angier Ave. Tues.-Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-876-8000. www.saltworksgallery.com.