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.
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.
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.
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.