Jonny Alexander is a trip. Talking to the 21-year-old artist is like going through a time warp—one that lands you back in the 1960s when young people were still idealistic, wanted to connect with nature and thought they could change the world. The influence is coming partly from the '60s and '70s psychedelic rock he says he listens to when he sits down to make art.
“I will never paint or draw without hearing music,” Alexander says. “I kind of draw from that era and that kind of mindset. I have a wide variety of music I listen to, and most of it was made before I was born.”
I got hold of Alexander as he was heading out of town for a weekend camping trip in Big Sur. He couldn't wait to run around in the wild with his backpack filled with art supplies. He says he sits for hours and tries to imitate the patterns found in nature.
“Everything's so intricately designed,” he says. “You have to stop and look at it. That's nature, not so much my art. Hopefully my art will do that for you, though.”
Alexander's piece on the cover of CityBeat this week is called "Smug in the Wooly Cotton Brains of Infancy." It's a 22-layer silkscreen on paper, and it's one of his older pieces done through what he likes to call “automatic or unconscious” drawing. He would compile random images from his sketchbook and put them together in a silkscreen.
These days, Alexander is a little more conscious about the messages his images are conveying. He's gotten into narratives—mostly related to societal woes or environmental issues.
“I want someone to look at a piece and get their brains working instead of mindlessly looking at images,” Alexander says. “I try to invoke some type of thought about our daily lives that people don't really see. I have a big influence with nature and the natural landscape and how far we've gone from that. I try to bring people back.”
Check out jonnyalexanderabyss.blogspot.com to see Jonathan Alexander's work.