'The Bob Schneider Show'
On the cutting etch
A tableau of human figures twisted into horrifying shapes, their limbs and digits contorted like maverick putty and often multiplied in numbers far beyond the normal. This is not, though it could be, a scene from some planet called Shayol; this is the graphic work of Bob Schneider, better known for his music but currently represented by what he's rendered in intaglio etchings on copperplate. All of which can be seen in stunning profusion on the walls of Flatbed Press' gallery in his new solo show.
Once you've scanned the images in all their monochrome starkness, the delicate lines limning anatomical horrors and textual embeddings, it's hard to scrape them from the walls of your mind. Of course, working in intaglio, it's not the easiest thing for the artist to scrape the images from the walls of his mind in the first place, to scratch them into flat and polished planes of copper and witness them, finally, in limited editions of oversized prints pulled, 15th-century style, on enormous hand-cranked presses. Wouldn't a fine-point Sharpie and simple offset have been a lot easier?
"I got into etching in college," offers Schneider, woken from an exhaustion-capping, here-comes-SXSW-and-a-solo-show-at-Flatbed nap and yawning groggily into the phone. "I took a class with this great printmaking teacher, Kurt Kemp, at UT-El Paso, and he was really inspiring. We're still in touch these days, and he's, I guess he's my biggest influence. People look at his work I have some prints he gave me and they think I did it."
As if he'd have the time to do more than he already does. You look in the live music pages of the Chronicle, say, and you see the number of gigs the man plays; you search further and you find a discography comprising several bands and more recordings than the fingers on any of the hands of Schneider's extra-digited figures. You do that, and you may wonder where he finds the time at all.
"The etchings aren't a constant thing," he allows. "My printmaking tends to come in little bursts. Like maybe I'll do three or four a month for a few months; then I won't do anything for years. Because the visual stuff, yeah, it's a real small part of what I do."
It's also the visual stuff, chinked into whatever holes his schedule allows.
"Sometimes I'll take a plate into the studio," says Schneider, "and scratch away during the downtimes."
And does this or sheer intent cause any bleed-through between the membranes of the two media?
The artist yawns again, and there's a sound on the phone like a man scratching wearily at the stubble along his jaw. "Well," he says, "I put a lot of text into some of the prints. And sometimes I use lyrics in there, too, so it can get mixed up like that. And the cover for the first Lonelyland album was a print of mine. But when Universal issued it, they changed it, because they thought it was too weird or something."
Too weird or something. For the suits at a corporate media enclave? This should be a hint to you, O More-Than-Aesthetically-Stultified Reader, that what Bob Schneider is displaying in his second solo show his first in over a decade is possibly just weird enough. That the familiar verticals of Flatbed Press are currently holding some of the most complex and evocative prints they've ever held. That whether your ears think Schneider's music is God's gift to the audio spectrum or Satan's promise of what sounds you'll endure in hell, your eyes will widen in appreciation as they see what the man's done with metal on metal and ink on paper in the past few years.
"The Bob Schneider Show" runs through April 15 at Flatbed Press and Gallery, 2830 E. MLK Jr. Blvd. For more information, call 477-9328 or visit www.flatbedpress.com.