Day of the Lepus: Hunt Slonem’s ‘Magnificent Menagerie’ exhibition.

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art hosted a small exhibition of paintings by contemporary, Neo-Expressionist, American painter, Hunt Slonem. (On display until March 8, 2015.)
Slonem is known for his works exploring nature, and what he describes as “exotica,”  including images of butterflies and rabbits, for which he is probably best known. He began his Rabbit Series in 1981 and the FWMoA has several of his recent works on display.
I visited the show in late January. The first thing that impressed me were the bright, shining colors, loose, gestural forms and the effects that the repetitious patterns and textures had on the exhibition space. The large area allowed me to get some distance from the towering wall of rabbits and highly textured insect paintings. From across the room, the lines, dots and shapes constructed whimsically fashioned bunnies and bugs, but as I drew closer, the thick impasto and rough textures became more obvious, dissolving the butterflies into loose but regular blobs of thick paint, themselves beautiful to look at.
This is the type of painting I really enjoy, at least in technique, if not subject matter. The control and composition are precise, the craftsmanship is clear, and yet the expressiveness is there in the hand of the artist, repetitiously daubing thick line after line across the canvases.


Untitled, 2014
Untitled, 2014

This untitled piece from last year features a gold background with grey and black used for the rabbits. The brushstrokes are loose but confident (not surprising for an artist who has been painting rabbits since the 1980s). In the spotlights of the gallery the gold shimmers in a luxurious way that I found mesmerizing.


Wall of Bunnies, 2012-2014
Wall of Bunnies, 2012-2014

This grouping of small rabbit paintings all had a whimsical, calligraphic style to the form. The bunnies peer at the viewer, some pensive, others bold, each one with its own character. After sitting in the middle of the gallery staring back at them for a while I became a bit numb to the cotton-tailed gazes. My eyes no longer registered the creatures, instead they dissolved into lines, curves, and blocks of colors. It’s a wonderful thing that happens, sometimes, when a viewer just allows him or herself to take time in a gallery. Just sit and look, and eventually you’ll see so much more than the surfaces.


Guardians, 2014
Guardians, 2014

Not all the pieces in this show were rabbits, there were butterflies, too. Many of them, including this work from 2014, and Viceroy, from the same year, and an untitled piece from 2011, all on display, had wonderful attention to detail and patterns both meticulous and expressive. The impasto insects were some of my favorites.
This is another fantastic show of contemporary American art hosted by the FWMoA. Given the subject matter and compositions, I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in the medium or even just interested in getting a glimpse of something to remind us of springtime. I would also encourage children to visit this exhibit, I think the style and forms could be a great inspiration to the next generation of expressionists.  If you miss Slonem in Fort Wayne, his work is being exhibited extensively around the world.  Worth seeing in person.

Published by Dr. EMS

Art history professor and lover of all things contemporary arts. Teaching and living in Zhejiang province, China.

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