Joseph Edwards Alexander was the artistic grandson of the abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann and the biological grandson of a famous New Bedford Whaling captain, his namesake, Joseph Edwards, whose first command was the Charles W. Morgan.
At the Swain School of Design in New Bedford (1967-1970), Joseph studied painting under the tutelage of David Loeffler Smith, a Hofmann protégé who directed the Swain School from 1962-1988. The influence of Hofmann and Loeffler-Smith is clear in Joseph’s work as are a number of 20th century masters, from Francis Bacon to Howard Hodgkin.
During his lifetime, Joseph exhibited his work in New Bedford and at the Ward Nasse Gallery and Gallerie Amadeus in Boston, The Wheeler Gallery in Providence, the Virginia Lynch Gallery in Tiverton, R.I., the Munson Gallery on Cape Cod and in juried shows at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum.
Joseph’s 40 year career was characterized by several major stylistic shifts. His early works range from Baconesque figuration to tonal New England landscapes of fields and buildings that evince a strong interest in geometry. After an early foray into surrealism, his palette brightened yielding a body of work where he focused on whimsical and sometimes historical figures in a style reminiscent of Loeffler-Smith.
It was in abstraction that Joseph Alexander truly found his voice as a colorist. Here again, he would develop and explore a style in depth before making a significant transition. ‘Dynamic’ abstracted landscapes that focus on movement gave way to Hodgkinesque explorations of color and form. Alexander then began to paint organic forms where he delicately or roughly layered color on color creating interactions between adjacent and vertically stacked areas of color. Subsequently, boundaries blurred and brushwork loosened, as Joseph moved from a focus on color and form to color and light that would occupy the remaining years of his life.
Textural shifts were an important component of Joseph’s art, ranging from the silky smooth brush work of Hodgkin to scumbled surfaces reminiscent of Twachtman.
Alongside his acrylic paintings, Joseph kept up a steady production of color felt-pen drawings. These were not preparatory sketches, but fully developed art works that features figures, forms and landscapes.
Joseph’s brother George described him as becoming increasingly reclusive in the years before his passing, retiring to his studio early in the evening, listening to Mozart, and painting deep into the night. Joseph Alexander lived most of his life in his family’s home in New Bedford and died in Boston at age 61.