I’ve always remembered a story my father used to tell me, about how my mother was arrested in North Beach, San Francisco in the late 1950’s for walking barefoot in public. “Howl”, City Lights Books, and Lenny Bruce were often mentioned in the same conversations. Those were days when society and government heavily censored people - their writing, speech, music, public activity, and art - primarily out of fear, fear of anything different or non-conformist.
Realist. Surrealist. Hippie. Punk. Bruce Conner (1933-2008) was all of these and more. A Bay Area pioneer in experimental film, collage, photography, conceptual works, and paintings, Conner challenged the limitations of medium, genre, and style, constantly breaking new ground.
In an onstage conversation Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Directors’ Circle donors were previewing “Bruce Conner: It’s All True,” it was emphasized that Conner, “the quintessential artist’s artist” by museum director Neal Benezra’s description, was a man of paradox.