San Francisco

Rudy Bender

I seldom review photo shows, but this month the San Francisco Museum of Art mounted a show by Rudy Bender that had some extra appeal which had the weekend crowds congesting the hallway where it was on display. There were rows of stereopticon binoculars lining the walls in the most popular part of the show and the view was of nudes, layers of them, transparently seen through each other, filling up the space. The imagery was so dense that at times a part which one had initially associated with one nude is revealed on closer scrutiny to be a part of another. A nude walks out of herself and moves through three motion patterns on her way through a door; each pattern is very 3-D but at the same time very ethereal. Montaging film is usually very flattening to the pictures that are superimposed, because it is most often done in movies and is usually accomplished by shooting out of focus, rewinding and double-exposing the second scene, neither of which would be satisfactory alone, but which together weld two strong movements and give logic to transition. Bender’s nudes are full flesh, no flatness, and the color is beige, as nudes tend to be, but since several of the pictures are entirely nudes with no figure background, the whole photo is flesh-toned. Another sequence is projected on a screen: some of these are trees, not trunks growing out of the ground, but a view of tree limbs against the sky with no certainty of up and down. Photo shows so seldom command a wall and would seem more appropriate in a book. Not so Bender’s show which is too spatial to be appropriate to either wall or book. The magic of the method is not new; perhaps the engaging subject matter made stereopticon-looking seem vital and new again.

Knute Stiles