Building an Exhibition

Faculty Guest Blogger: Steven Alexander

Steven Alexander: I recently presented a one-person exhibition of new paintings at Gremillion & Co Fine Art in Houston. So for this guest blog post, I thought it might be interesting to briefly describe the process of creating a large solo gallery show from start to finish.

My affiliation with Gremillion & Co has been a twenty year relationship, and I have presented nine solo shows there. This most recent show opened April 9, 2015 and ran for four weeks. It was scheduled more than a year in advance, and work on the paintings for the show began then.

Steven Alexander StudioOf course the first and most important challenge was to make a big new batch of successful paintings. The difficulty and complexity of this task is the essence of the painter’s practice, and far too involved to go into here. But for the works in this exhibition, my process began with considerations of scale.

To my eye, the rather magnificent Gremillion gallery space works best with a group of large paintings hung with plenty of space around them, so the paintings have optimum presence as individual objects, but also create interesting visual conversations across the walls and around the corners, leading the viewer around and through the space.

Installation-Plan-AlexanderBecause I am quite familiar with the gallery space — it’s size, shape, light, and feel — I was able to visualize the character of the exhibition, and later, the actual placement of the works. Rather than just send a random bunch of paintings to be hung on the walls, I chose to conceive the exhibition as a cohesive whole, and design the show to maximize the resonance among the works.

Steven Alexander StudioAfter a year of intensive work, my studio was packed with large and small paintings, some of which would be chosen for the show. Once I had arrived at a viable group of finished pieces of the right size, I began to arrange them in the (imagined) space with the help of a floor plan. When I was happy with the (virtual) arrangement, it was finally time to pack up the paintings to be shipped to Houston.

The gallery received the work along with my floor plan, and the installation proceeded according to the plan — always with the possibility that, once the work was actually in the space, improvements might occur. By the time I arrived in Houston the day before the opening, there were a few minor tweaks, but the show was beautifully installed and lit, and everything was ready for a lively opening night.

Click on one of the circles above to view a close up image of the gallery space.

Steven Alexander is a Professor of Visual Arts and Coordinator of Undergraduate Painting at Marywood University. Visit his website at

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