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Double Jeopardy

Seth Alverson painted exact duplicates of his unsold artworks and hung them side by side to sell as sets. Is this an exercise in futility, an act of genius or both?

Back at the Art Palace on opening night, a set of Alverson's abstract pieces totaling $8,000 have sold. According to Art Palace owner Arturo Palacios, the gallery takes 50 percent of the sales, which means Seth, thus far, will be taking home $4,000 for a show that he worked on for more than a year.

Palacios has seen Alverson become a more polished artist since he first began representing Seth four years ago. "At that point, he was making a lot of large-scale, figurative paintings that were pretty graphic and dark," says Palacios. "Now, they're more sophisticated, and they don't hit you over the head like those previous pieces tended to. He's just become a much more complex painter."

Seth's mom Susie explains that her son's thematic preferences aren't as gruesome as the ones from those bleak days following the death of his brother Lance because she's seen Seth attain some closure. "His pictures aren't as dark now," she says. "I hope he feels much recovered." She also says that after viewing Seth's latest exhibit during a private showing, she's come around to what she initially thought was not the best idea in the world.

Alverson's series of "miscreant stepchild" paintings, currently on display through October 8, are being sold as sets. Seth priced the diptychs and tetraptychs for just a little bit more than he would for one and two paintings of his, respectively. That's because, he says, his show is "an exercise in futility."
Photos courtesy of Art Palace
Alverson's series of "miscreant stepchild" paintings, currently on display through October 8, are being sold as sets. Seth priced the diptychs and tetraptychs for just a little bit more than he would for one and two paintings of his, respectively. That's because, he says, his show is "an exercise in futility."
Seth's artist mom Susie Alverson used to run her own one-woman painting operation, but she hasn't painted in years. This 1989 painting is of her and her husband.
Chris Curry
Seth's artist mom Susie Alverson used to run her own one-woman painting operation, but she hasn't painted in years. This 1989 painting is of her and her husband.

For Seth, the copycat show, which will remain on display through October 8, yielded forgotten rewards, such as remembering how to mix certain colors that he likes to work with. But the titanic efforts of painting ten exact duplicates, to the best of his ability, taxed his energy in a major way.

Rachel Cook, a Houstonian who's currently in the curatorial studies graduate school program at New York's Bard College, has followed Seth's art career since 2005, and she's impressed by his accomplishment. "I think re-performance and repetition is interesting," says Cook. "It's not just about this duplication of an image. It's Seth re-performing the act of re-creating a painting twice."

"After this set of copies, he's going to be a little bit freer," says Ledvina. "I think he needed to do this show where it's something that he's never done before. After this, he can sort of clean his palette."

Positive things have been in the works for Seth since he finished his twin paintings. At month's end, he's moving into a cheaper and bigger Heights apartment that was formerly occupied by heavy-hitting local artist Elaine Bradford. At year's end, his girlfriend, who is scheduled to graduate from VCU in December, plans to move to Houston and share the space with Seth.

Starting next year, Alverson will instruct a beginning painting class at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Glassell School of Art. A few weeks before his show opening, Glassell's faculty chair called Seth to tell him he was a fan and to offer him a teaching position. If his post-course evaluations come back okay, the school will load him with a heftier and more challenging curriculum schedule. Teaching, which won't necessarily supplant his career as a painter, has been a dream of Seth's for years.

As far as his next series, Seth will figure that out on the fly. He says that the copycat exhibit is the first time he had a premeditated idea for a body of work.

Though he successfully executed the idea, which will probably be talked about for years, there's no way he going to put himself through that so-called futility exercise by painting additional twins to keep his evil twins company. "I have no idea what I'm going to do next," he says, "but I do know that I probably won't do that again."

steve.jansen@houstonpress.com

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1 comments
'stina
'stina

Yay Seth! An amazing painter and a good person. Thanks for doing this article, Houston Press.

 
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