Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA



2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II


"2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II," the first major survey of the artist's career, opens October 8, 2000, at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) at California Plaza (250 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles) and remains on view through January 14, 2001. Spanning Conner's varied artistic production from 1954 to 1998, the exhibition includes assemblage, film, painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, printmaking, and photography.

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 l50 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. (left: Sound of Two Hand Angel, 1974, gelatin silver print photogram, Collection Tim Savinar and Patricia Unterman, San Francisco, CA, ©1999 Bruce Conner)

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. (left: A Movie (film still), 1958, 16mm film, black and white, sound, Courtesy the artist and Canyon Cinema,,San Francisco, ©1999 Bruce Conner)

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.


Background of the artist

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. (left: Totem Time in Dreamland, 1975, ink on paper, 22 1/4 x 20 1/2 inches, Collection Peter S. Buchanan Bolinas, CA, ©1999 Bruce Conner)

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.



The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication that includes essays by exhibition co-curators Peter Boswell, Bruce Jenkins, and Joan Rothfuss. This fully illustrated 280-page catalogue includes a bibliography, filmography, and exhibition history and is distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.


Exhibition Tour

Prior to its presentation at MOCA, which is coordinated by curatorial associate Colette Dartnall, the exhibition was on view at the Walker Art Center (October 9, 1999, to January 2, 2000), Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (February 6 to April 23, 2000), and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco (May 21 to July 301 2000).



"2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II" was organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and has been made possible by generous support from Ann Hatch, Lannan Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Ann and Barrie Birks, and the Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation. The exhibition catalogue is made possible in part by the Richard Florsheim Art Fund; Paula Z. Kirkeby; Kohn Turner Gallery, Los Angeles; Curt Marcus Gallery, New York, and Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco. Restoration and preservation costs for Breakaway provided by the American Film Institute Preservation Challenge Grant. (left: Snore, 1960, 36 1/2 x 15 x 20 inches, wood, fabric, nylon, string, metal vent, paint, metal can, etc., Collection The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Goldyne, ©1999 Bruce Conner)

The Los Angeles presentation is sponsored in part by Audrey M. Irmas.

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