Follow Little Bunny Foo Foo into "The World of Hunt Slonem"

Installation view of works by Hunt Slonem from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.EXPAND
Installation view of works by Hunt Slonem from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.
Photo by Susie Tommaney

Now we know what happened to little bunny Foo Foo after he finished his mischievous tirade, hopping through the forest and bopping field mice on the head. That bunny, plus birds, butterflies and all sorts of flora and fauna have jumped into "The World of Hunt Slonem," and they're on view now at the Colquitt location of Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.

Painter, sculptor, print maker and hoarder of Amazonian parrots, Slonem's world is a colorful one. There isn't any serious message here – the paintings aren't designed to bring about a seachange – but they will elicit a smile. And like most smiles, it's contagious. Everybody wants a piece of Slonem, and the price for his Neo-Expressionist paintings reflects that demand.

(L) Installation view and (R) painting by Hunt Slonem, 72" x 84", from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.EXPAND
(L) Installation view and (R) painting by Hunt Slonem, 72" x 84", from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.
(L) Photo by Susie Tommaney and (R) photo courtesy of the artist and Laura Rathe Fine Art

Slonem's body of work includes sculptures and public art projects of toucans, tigers, monkeys, exotic birds and bunnies (natch), though sculpture is not a part of this Houston exhibit. With at least six coffee table books devoted to the man, ranging from his meticulously restored Southern mansions to his fascination with Abraham Lincoln, it's no wonder that the worlds of fashion and home decor wanted in on the action.

(L) Paintings by Hunt Slonem and (R) installation view from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.EXPAND
(L) Paintings by Hunt Slonem and (R) installation view from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.
(L) Photos courtesy of the artist and Laura Rathe Fine Art and (R) photo by Susie Tommaney

He's done a fine job upcycling 19th century and vintage furniture, tossing Grandma's dated upholstery for a breath of fresh air with his colorful, nature-inspired prints. A few chairs and settees are on display in the gallery, along with bunny wallpaper and paintings both large and small. More is more when it comes to Slonem design: Slap a sparkly butterfly painting against a bunny line-drawing wallpapered accent wall, push the turtle print chair into place and voila – that cookie-cutter abode just got supercharged.

(L) Installation view and (R) paintings by Hunt Slonem from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.EXPAND
(L) Installation view and (R) paintings by Hunt Slonem from "The World of Hunt Slonem" exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art in Houston.
(L) Photo by Susie Tommaney and (R) photos courtesy of the artist and Laura Rathe Fine Art

Slonem's career seems to be constantly on the rise. Moving to Manhattan in the '70s, he soon found himself running in the same crowds as Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli and Truman Capote. He launched into his "Rabbit paintings" in the early '80s and those have reproduced like, well, rabbits. In 2008 Audi replicated one of his paintings on the exterior of a one-of-a-kind A5 coupe, Hollywood has been tossing around the idea of turning his life into a movie, and his work is in the permanent collections of at least 250 museums.

If you like his work, it's easy to start small with a branded scarf, book or small bunny portrait. Or throw caution to the wind and dive right in. His latest passion is to do installations where he recreates his personal studio on demand, complete with vibrant paintings, furniture and feathered walls.

"The Worlds of Hunt Slonem" exhibition continues through January 7 at Laura Rathe Fine Art, 2707 Colquitt, open Tuesdays to Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed for the holidays December 24 through January 2, 713-527-7700, laurarathe.com.


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