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"Seth Alverson" In his current slew of oil paintings at Art Palace, Seth Alverson displays an extraordinary ability to charge seemingly banal subjects with slow-burning menace and mystery. Many of the paintings, when viewed from a distance, could be photographs — like Bed for One, a simple image of a tiny room with single bed draped in a yellow blanket, viewed from outside the doorway. Something about it suggests a malevolent presence; Alverson intentionally maintains a distance, as if entering the room would effectively cross a psychic boundary. Mop is a gruesome scene of inexplicable violence: a white-walled hallway corner with a blood-covered floor and a mop propped against the wall. Why no blood on the walls? And why does the mop seem to stand upright in the space, regardless of its handle's shadow against the wall? Alverson is forcing questions that bypass the work's horrific narrative, desensitizing his subject with optical illusions. Works like Fence display a masterly ability to render out-of-focus subjects, like a forest in the distance viewed from behind a sharply focused wooden fence. You see it again in Dress, a woman in a solid-blue dress framed from neck to knee. She is standing in an open field, with blurry trees on the horizon, both hands grasping a camera. Alverson is withholding essential bits of the story, perhaps even non-dramatic, boring ones, and it causes us to imagine the worst. It's compelling work. Through August 21. 3913 Main. 281-501-2964. — TS

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