Indepth Arts News: |
"2000 BC: THE BRUCE CONNER STORY PART II"
2000-10-08 until 2001-01-14
Museum of Contemporary Art, LA
Los Angeles, CA,
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
TOTEM TIME IN DREAMLAND, 1975
Ink on paper
Collection Peter S. Buchanan, Bolinas, CA
© 1999 BRUCE CONNER