Bruce Conner
BOMBHEAD, 2002/1989
Pigment on RC photo and Somerset paper, acrylic
32 x 25 in
Edition of 20
(10 on RC photo, 10 on Somerset)

Edition Information

BOMBHEAD was originally conceived as a newspaper and photocopy collage by Bruce Conner in 1989. This edition of BOMBHEAD was scanned using the original negatives of a portrait of Bruce Conner by Edmund Shea and an atomic bomb photo from the National Archives, Library of Congress. It was digitally edited by Bruce Conner and Donald Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions in Oakland, California. The printing was done on an Epson 9600 piezo printer using gray and black pigmented ink. Bruce Conner accidentally hand painted the drop of blood on the atomic symbol on the tie with acrylic paint.

Bruce Conner
Walker Art Center

For the past four decades, Bruce Conner’s work has defied easy categorization. [Bruce Conner recently participated] at the Walker as part of the exhibition Beat Culture and the New America: 1950-1965, he is perhaps best known for his landmark assemblages and kinetic, short films of the 1950s and 1960s. But Conner has also done extraordinary work in painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, printmaking, and photography. Today Conner is recognized as one of the most influential artists of his generation. 2000 BC: THE BRUCE CONNER STORY PART II presents some 150 works in a broad range of media to provide a much-needed introduction to the variety of work by this prolific artist. However, it is not a retrospective. As the exhibition title suggests, there are many other parts to the Bruce Conner story, as yet untold. This one places special emphasis on his filmmaking and his exploration of the physical, metaphorical, and metaphysical properties of light and dark.

Born in Kansas and later associated with the 1950s renaissance of poetry and visual art in San Francisco, Conner first attracted public attention with his moody nylon-shrouded assemblages–complex sculptures of such found objects as women’s stockings, costume jewelry, bicycle wheels, and broken dolls, often combined with collaged or painted surfaces. Erotically charged and tinged with echoes of both the Surrealist tradition and San Francisco’s Victorian past, his assemblages–such as RATBASTARD (1958) and THE BRIDE (1960)–resonate with themes of beauty, death, and the loss of innocence and established him as one of the leading figures in the international assemblage movement.

After a yearlong sojourn in Mexico, Conner returned to California and became an active force of the 1960s San Francisco counterculture. Included in this exhibition are examples of his intricate black-and-white mandala drawings as well as his elaborate collages made from scraps of 19th-century engravings, which remain icons of the period’s sensory-based spirituality. During the 1970s, Conner focused on drawing and photography, producing the dramatic, life-sized photograms from the ANGELS series (1973-1975) as well as intimately scaled inkblot drawings such as DREAM TIME IN TOTEM LAND (1975). In recent years, the artist has continued to work on a small scale, producing collages and inkblot drawings that sustain an original sensibility with a refreshing new perspective.

If Conner’s assemblages probed beneath the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, then his films from the same period further revealed the roots of this troubled American psyche. In 1958 he began making short movies in a style that established him as one of the most important figures in postwar independent filmmaking. His innovative technique can be best seen in his first film, A MOVIE (1958), an editing tour-de-force made entirely by piecing together scraps of B-movie condensations, newsreels, novelty shorts, and other pre-existing footage. 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.

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