American Vistas: The Life and Art of John Van Alstine
By Tim Kane
For nearly 50 years, John Van Alstine has created abstract sculptures forged with stone and steel. At their essence, they explore natural forces and man-made elements, conveying the American experience as the confluence/conflict between wilderness and industrialization. Ever since the early 19th century, as the nation moved west, American landscape artsts have depicted this juxtaposition as a particularly American dichotomy, a friction between the vast expanses of open space confronted with the march of economic progress--the Garden of Eden spoiled by modernity and machinery. Van Alstine's sculpture adds to this epic dialogue by keenly expanding on the 19th century narrative, while injecting 20th century ideas of abstraction, constructivism, cubism, assemblage, collage, and found objects as a standard-bearer of the modernist tradition. Written as a companion piece to John Van Alstine: Sculpture 1971-2018, released in 2019 by The Artist Book Foundation (TABF), this book not only highlights and offers a critical assessment of Van Alstine's art, but it delves into biographic elements that drive his creative process. It explores the intellectual foundations of what he makes beyond merely aesthetics, and provides a window into the process that reveals the person as much as the art. Together, they are meant to be a singular and complete examination on one of the most important sculptors in the last half-century.