The Blue Star Arts complex in San Antonio is most famous for the marquee gallery of the same name that regularly shows some of the most interesting and exciting work in San Antonio, but the complex is also home to several other small studio galleries hidden away like the cool lofts in the party scenes of ’70s movies. The charmingly small, almost attic-like Hello Studio just opened a tactile and trippy show, with the blissfully bonged titled Cloak Dagger Parallel Meridians by local artist Anthony Rundblade.
Rundblade has a degree in printmaking, and the show is impressively installed and three-dimensional. Rundblade works in collage, taking black-and-white pictures of ’50s and ’60s figures (LBJ etc.), then obscuring and interspersing them with wavy nostalgic patterns that recall the cover art of musique concrete albums on the WERGO label. The collages are embossed and layered and sometimes sunken into the wall giving them the presence of stage design. It reminded me of seeing the poet Rober Hass read at a theater that was staging a production of Brigadoon, and Hass stood between slatted illuminated fake trees and the scenery seemed to freeze the pathos of his poems like an insect in amber.
Rundblade’s artist statement for the show is loftily and gravely stoned:
“Searching documented history, extending the life of the printed image, building edifice. Reflecting on the influence of historical outmoded technology of books as the contemporary subconscious. They are a path to an example of the resonance of thought. I hope to find a balance through my efforts, and mine the contention between subjective truths with that of a larger, assumed collective reality.”
My takeaway was less abstracted, but instead reverberating with the paranoia of conspiracy. The retro photographs Rundblade uses recall the fetid blooming pools of reactionary corruption that brought forth the Vietnam war and the maniacal, grotesque interference into South America. These photos are interspersed with florid neon patterns suggesting sine waves or brain activity. They are distant and refined — the pulse behind the conspiracy of dreams. Conspiracies are a form of negative faith; it is much more comforting to believe there is some nefarious and unholy cabal pulling the strings than that the world is controlled by the wave, implacable and uncaring and that the wave has always been cresting and breaking and always will. Watch Ned Beatty’s brutal monologue in Network and then read about the party in the Hamptons attended by Jared and Ivanka, Charles Schumer, the Koch Brothers, George Soros and Steven Spielberg amongst others. It’s as if all this sweaty righteousness about politics and elections is just a dumb joke people laugh about at a party we’re not invited to.
I don’t think everyone’s response to this beguiling show will be as ranting as mine. And part of the strength of Rundblade’s pieces is a flat elegance that is perfectly surreal. Others may, in Rundblade’s words, “mine the contention between subjective truths with that of a larger, assumed collective reality” differently. I did feel a pang of longing looking at this show despite the latticed dread it conjured. It is beautiful and feels almost ordered compared to the grotesque slag we live in now. If Rundblade made a show about the patterns behind the rot of today, he might replace the waves with writhing worms.
At Hello Studio, San Antonio, through August 26th