Hunt Slonem: Curiouser and Curiouser at K Contemporary in Denver features 200 pieces from the New York artist’s career—including his signature bunnies.
Hunt Slonem: Curiouser and Curiouser
September 10–November 6, 2021
K Contemporary, Denver
While exploring the K Contemporary exhibition Curiouser and Curiouser, I felt more of a palpable whimsy than anything that resembled curiosity. Curiosity is a gut feeling that inspires us to ask “what if?” and to peel back layer after layer to reveal hidden truths and unexpected possibilities.
Hunt Slonem’s work doesn’t rely on subtlety or quietness to nudge viewers in the right direction or to get points across. I didn’t come away from this show with any profound revelations or deeply felt emotions. However, it doesn’t mean that this curiously named exhibition wasn’t a joy to experience. Buttressed with paintings, sculptures, and lightboxes starring Slonem’s signature bunnies, Curiouser and Curiouser deftly immerses viewers in Slonem’s world of vivid decadence.
Minimalist black and white bunnies leap off canvases into five-foot resin sculptures. Floor to ceiling lightboxes humming with cheery pastels and thick butterfly flourishes illuminate rooms brimming with antique furniture, handwoven rugs, and orchids. Every space is thoughtfully occupied, each detail is affectionately fussed over.
The show features more than 200 of Slonem’s pieces ranging from paintings to neon and glass sculptures that have been plucked from throughout the celebrated New York artist’s half-century career. The most impressive and engaging feature of this exhibition is the lavish presentation of the artwork, which drew inspiration from Slonem’s 35,000-square-foot art studio.
There’s a clear love and reverence for Slonem’s career on full display here on behalf of Denver-based artist Jonathan Saiz, who co-curated the exhibition. In the entryway of the building, bunny portraits are cheekily affixed to the ceiling to reward attendees who bother to look up—I wouldn’t have had the gallery’s director Jennifer Berry not pointed them out.
Slonem’s bunnies, tropical birds, and butterflies pop up over and over again in various scales and formats across the exhibition in a practice that the hosting gallery K Contemporary describes as a meditative visual mantra. A critical view of this method would argue that the habit reveals an artist lacking ideas. But in wandering around Slonem’s world and witnessing the largeness and vitality of his creations, I felt wonder, innocence, and a strong pull towards nature, and nothing close to the tedium and dread that usually comes with repetition.
As the Delta variant continues dimming America’s hopes of returning to normalcy anytime soon, this exhibition can be interpreted as a balm for our pandemic-weary times. Most of us again find ourselves taking precautions, cutting back, planning for the worst, seeking protection, canceling our plans.
But while we make ourselves small, Curiouser and Curiouser stops at nothing to celebrate abundance, lightness, and fanciful grandeur. It exists in a universe that’s entirely separate from our own; a place that’s relieving to live in, even for a short while.
Hunt Slonem: Curiouser and Curiouser is scheduled to remain on view through November 6, 2021, at K Contemporary, 1412 Wazee Street.