The exhibition has been extended through July 21.
We were wondering who to blame for love, the fierce emotion that grabs us by the throat and tosses us about like a shuttlecock in a windstorm, and now the very intellectual artist Bob Schneider has come clean, and admitted it. And has the work to document it at the intimate d. m. allison gallery.
Schneider as an artist is torn in different directions. Part of him wants to teach or intrigue us with his ideas, often brilliant, no matter what they images look like. Part of him wants to cater to his keen visual sense. And part wants to demonstrate his skilled ultra-craftmanship in working with the intaglio process, incising directly onto steel plates.
The title of his exhibition, We Invented Love, comes from his recently published book of poetry and art collages: "We invented love somehow, and without mercy or instruction, half a head coming out of the water in the night." It is a powerful image - I thought immediately of the iconic Halle Berry, rising from the sea in the James Bond flick Die Another Day - perhaps you remember it, as well.
Schneider's art is cerebral, so it is no coincidence that I liked best a sculpture of what might be a head used by a phrenologist for illustrative purposes, except that the front of it has slipped partially off, revealing part of a human face behind the ceramic mask. And the entire ceramic head and face are covered with a finely-detailed map of the world, extending down past a sculptured neck and onto a box with an open door (a prison cell?). And within the box . . . will it be a human heart, I wondered? Inspection corrected my speculation - it was a rock.
The work is detailed, complex, significant, and witty, all elements that play to Schneider's strength. The work is titled "The Word for Love Is and Always Will Be Love." I admire it enormously.
There are five works painted on slightly weathered windows, which seemed jocular, almost a private joke, thinly dimensional, deliberately so. One of these was "Super Lone Ranger", with red X-ray lasers shooting from the Lone Ranger's eyes. And there was another one of the Lone Ranger, somewhat similar, and there was one of Tennessee Ernie Ford, also with laser-beam eyes.
Schneider has an affinity for severed - well, severed whatever - limbs, or conduits, or arteries, and these are sometimes intriguing but not necessarily comfortable to be around. One etching in particular stands out for its originality and power, "The Wild Melancholy" - it depict a male head and a torso with multiple male genitalia, as well as multiple breasts, and both the man's mouth and a prominent male organ seem to be speaking - cartoonish balloons with lettering issue from the orifices. "Wild", indeed, and certainly "Melancholy", since the man's ams are severed, as is his right leg.
One etching "Bundle of Nerves" simply shows thousands of neural synapses encased in a wrapping of some kind. (I was intrigued since scientists are mystified as to why we have 250 million neural linkages joining the left brain and the right brain - we use few of these linkages). The work seems flat - somehow I expected more detail, more artistic input. But that may just be Schneider, toying with our habits of perception.
Schneider intends to challenge us, and perhaps is too successful at it. He veers from simplistic images (the Lone Ranger) which may have personal relevance but certainly can seem trivial to a viewer, to painstaking etchings extraordinarily rich in detail. He has enormous gifts, and it should be educational to follow his progress as he continues to explore different paths - one of them may lead to greatness. Choose carefully.
The exhibition is part of PrintHouston 2014, a Houston-wide summer-long celebration of original prints. Bob Schneider: We Invented Love continues through
June 28 July 21, at d. m. allison gallery, 2709 Colquitt, open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 to 5, 832-607-4378, or contact http://www.dma-art.com.
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