“Red Velvet”

“I was looking for anything with a sinister undercurrent,” says Volker Eisele, curator of “Red Velvet.” The title of the exhibit is a take on Blue Velvet, David Lynch’s 1986 film depicting drugs and depravity lurking beneath a small-town façade. While the group show doesn’t offer anything as disturbing as an amyl nitrite-huffing Dennis Hopper slapping around Isabella Rossellini while screaming, “Mommy, mommy, baby wants to fuck!” it does offer some cleverly ominous takes on domestic life.

John Hartley paints hyperrealistic toy soldiers with prosthetics or missing limbs, an unsettling intermingling of real war and play war. Tim Stokes’s two installations feature all the items found in a typical room of a house (one’s a bathroom, the other a dining area) packed into a tiny space and surrounded by flashing red lights. “The effect is that it all looks like it’s about to explode,” says Eisele. Nancy Lamb’s paintings of suburban cocktail parties have a Norman Rockwell look but the perspectives are skewed, with the focus on the floor, cutting subjects’ heads out of the picture. “There’s a kind of vertigo to them,” says Eisele. “It’s like [the subjects] are falling out of their own world.”

Other work in show, sponsored by the Rudolph Projects ArtScan Gallery and happening at FotoFest during the photography hub’s off-season, includes Whitney Riley’s paintings of supermodels cutting celery and baking cookies, Thedra Culler-Ledford’s kimonos made with pornographic fabric, and Houston Press writer Kelly Klaasmeyer’s oversize diaper and home pregnancy-test boxes. Well, there are times when a pregnancy test is as intimidating as a drug-crazed psychopath who beats and rapes people to Roy Orbison songs.


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