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"2000 BC: THE BRUCE CONNER STORY PART II"
2000-10-08 until 2001-01-14
Museum of Contemporary Art, LA
Los Angeles, CA, USA

The first major survey of the artist's career, this exhibition includes assemblage, film, painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, printmaking, and photography and spans Conner's varied artistic production from 1954 to 1998.

The exhibition was organized for the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, by Peter Boswell (former Walker Art Center curator and currently senior curator/assistant director for programs at the Miami Art Museum), Bruce Jenkins (former Walker film/video curator and currently curator, Harvard Film Archives), and Joan Rothfuss (Walker curator of visual arts). Among the approximately 150 works on view are early works that have been newly restored or are being shown publicly for the first time in decades. This exhibition highlights Conner's lifelong engagement with the physical, metaphorical, and metaphysical properties of light and dark.

Examples of his intricate black-and-white mandala drawings as well as his elaborate collages made from scraps of 19th-century engravings are included in this exhibition. During the 1970s, Conner focused on drawing and photography, producing life-sized photograms from the ANGEL series (1973-75), ethereal images of Conner's own body floating on a black background. He also created the 26 etchings that make up THE DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW (1971-73), based on a series of hallucinatory collages from the 1960s. In recent years, the artist has worked on a smaller scale, seen in inkblot drawings such as SAMPLER (February 20, 1991).

The exhibition places special emphasis on the relationship between Conner's filmmaking and his exploration of varied themes and concepts in other media. In 1958, he began making short movies using an innovative technique that can best be seen in his first film, A MOVIE (1958), which was created by piecing together scraps of B-movies, newsreels, novelty shorts, and other preexisting footage. A MOVIE has been given special preservation status as one of the few experimental films selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. His subsequent films are most often fast-paced collages of found and new footage, and he was among the first to use pop music for film sound tracks. Conner's films have inspired generations of filmmakers and are now considered to be the precursors of the music video genre.

Additional film highlights include a 8mm installation of TELEVISION ASSASSINATION (1963-64/1995), based on footage of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald that Conner filmed directly off the television screen, and a newly restored print of BREAKAWAY (1966), which features the exuberant dancing and voice-overs of Toni Basil. LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS (1959-67), much of which was shot in Mexico, will be presented both on video and on a rewinding Moviscop viewer that visitors may operate themselves.

Born in McPherson, Kansas, in 1933, Conner studied art at Wichita University and University of Nebraska, where he received a B.F.A. in 1956. He continued his studies at the Brooklyn Art School and the University of Colorado. In 1957, attracted by stories of a vibrant art and literary scene, he and his wife, Jean, moved to San Francisco. Conner subsequently became a key figure in the burgeoning Beat community, along with visual artists Jay DeFeo, Joan Brown, and Manuel Neri, and poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and Philip Lamantia. After sojourns in Mexico City and Brookline, Massachusetts, Conner resettled in San Francisco, where he continues to work today.

Conner first attracted public attention in the 1950s with his nylon-shrouded assemblages-complex sculptures of found objects such as women's stockings, costume jewelry, bicycle wheels, and broken dolls, often combined with collaged or painted surfaces. Simultaneously during the late 1950s, Conner began making short movies in a singular style that has since established him as one of the most important figures in postwar independent filmmaking.

IMAGE:
TOTEM TIME IN DREAMLAND, 1975
Ink on paper
Collection Peter S. Buchanan, Bolinas, CA
1999 BRUCE CONNER


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