Born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1967, Alexey Steele began his art training at an early age in the studio of his father, Leonid Steele, who was the renowned painter of Russian Academic Tradition of the Socialist Realism School. He furthered his professional education at the prestigious Surikov Art Institute of the Soviet Academy of Arts in Moscow under the important, internationally acclaimed artist Illia Glazunov. Steele moved to Los Angeles in 1990.
He is known for his large-scale figurative works in oil and on paper, psychological portrayals of common men of society and plein-air landscapes. His approach to figure is rooted in the Renaissance and Baroque periods seen through the prism of the Russian Academic Tradition. At the same time, his works possess a modern feel and intensity in their peculiar audacity of grand scale and grand themes.
Solving various problems in the development of his mammoth works, Steele employs largely forgotten Renaissance period processes. He is known for creating full-size drawings, referred to as “cartoons,” which attract attention in their own right. His portraiture conveys empathy and expresses humanistic ideals by giving the noble presence of royal portraits to a modern day common men and women from the rock bottom of society. Steele executes his life-sized portraits in a series of live sessions. In his landscapes and seascapes, Steele examines the formal qualities of movement and distance, while in his figure works he is preoccupied with the dimensional underpinning of shapes. The Russian Academic approach to the unity of dimension, tonality, and color plays important role in Steele’s visual language.
The content and function of art within society play an important part in Alexey’s views on art-making. Following in the tradition of his late father, Alexey is a proponent of art as an active tool of social action and community engagement in the form of public art. Upon founding his studio in Carson in 2005, Steele began working on My Neighbor Series inspired by one of the most statistically diverse cities in the nation. The concept of the series is to capture uniquely inspiring local heroes who command a special universal love and admiration even within most difficult neighborhoods. As part of the series, Steele was commissioned by CSU Dominguez Hills to create a painting entitled Learners of Dominguez: Howard, Jenika, Auburn, Chris, Ronald. The work was hailed by the media as “Capturing the Soul of a Diverse Campus.” In 2015-2018, Alexey Steele was awarded grants by The City of Carson Cultural Arts Commission, as well as additional 2016 – 2018 grants by Wells Fargo Bank to continue his work on the My Neighbor Series. With the series at the center, Steele built his public art project Love My Neighbor with the goal to introduce into our contemporary society a credible unifying message through compelling images and stories of the beloved and inspiring diverse neighbors who serve as unique binders of the local community. In 2016, Wells Fargo Bank participated in the project as the exhibiting partner. Over 40,000 Carson residents visited the installations.
Steele has been the subject of numerous Art and Mass Media publications, including Fine Art Connoisseur, American Arts Quarterly, Southwest Art, and Gramophone (London). His work has been featured on two covers of American Artist and he was subject of an in-depth profile on the front page of the “Arts and Books Section“ in the Los Angeles Times.
He has participated in numerous exhibitions at the Fleicher Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Autry National Center Museum, the Phippen Museum, the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center, and the Cape Cod Museum of Art. He had his one-man show “Outside Constraints” in Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, California.
Steele is a 2009 winner of the prestigious Artemis Award in Athens, Greece “for celebrating the power and beauty of women through his art on a heroic scale in the modern world,” particularly in his multi-figure compositions The Circle and The Soul of The Hero. In 2009, he also received the Gusi Peace Prize in the Philippines for his work on turning art into a tool of International Conflict Resolution and for his Fire of Peace composition.
Alexey believes theory plays an important role in the art-making process and helps the practitioner discover new thematic and expressive goals outside of commercially driven formats. Alexey participated in the memorable organizational meeting of American Forum for Realism moderated by Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine in December 2011 and participated in the influential Representational Art Conference (TRAC) series sponsored by California Lutheran University from its inception, giving extensive presentations at TRAC 2012, TRAC 2014 and TRAC 2015.
Steele coined the new art term “novorealism” in March 2011 and is a signature member of the California Art Club.