MoMA and SFMOMA announce retrospective of the work of Bruce Conner
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announce a retrospective devoted to Bruce Conner, spanning his 50-year career. BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE is the artist’s first monographic museum exhibition in New York, the first large survey of his work in 16 years, and the first complete retrospective. Bringing together over 250 objects in mediums including film and video, painting, assemblage, drawing, prints, photography, photograms, and performance, the exhibition will be on view at MoMA (July 3 to October 2, 2016), SFMOMA (October 29, 2016, to January 22, 2017), and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (February 21 to May 22, 2017). The exhibition is organized by SFMOMA and co-curated by Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA; Laura Hoptman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA; Rudolf Frieling, Curator of Media Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Gary Garrels, The Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; with Rachel Federman, Assistant Curator, Painting and Sculpture, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Bruce Conner (1933–2008) was one of the foremost American artists of the postwar era. Emerging from the California art scene, in which he worked for half a century, Conner’s work touches on various themes of postwar American society, from a rising consumer culture to the dread of nuclear apocalypse. Creating a body of work that exemplifies the fluidity between mediums that has become a hallmark of 21st-century art, Conner worked simultaneously in a range of mediums, often creating hybrids of painting and sculpture, film and performance, drawing and printing. He was an early practitioner of found-object assemblage, and his relief and free-standing sculptural objects such as CHILD (1959) and LOOKING GLASS (1964) were widely recognized equally for their masterful compositions and their daringly dark subject matter.
During this early period of his career, he also became a pioneer of avant-garde filmmaking and redefined the notions of cinema itself. Incorporating footage from a wide variety of sources— from countdown leaders and coming attractions to training films and newsreels—and adding later his own 16mm film footage, Conner developed a quick-cut method of editing which defined his oeuvre, and coupled with his use of pop music soundtracks, made films like COSMIC RAY (1961) and BREAKAWAY (1966) among the earliest precursors of the music video. Like his assemblages, Conner’s films also focus on disturbing but utterly current subject matter. Often politically pointed, they touch on issues of violence in American culture, the objectification of the female body, and nuclear holocaust. Because of their structural innovation and daring subject matter, films like A MOVIE (1958), REPORT (1963–67), and CROSSROADS (1976) have become landmarks of American experimental cinema. In addition to his sculptural and filmmaking activities, throughout his career Conner produced a number of bodies of works on paper, utilizing drawing, collage, and a method of inkblot drawing using scored paper. He also produced two important photographic bodies of work, including a haunting group of black-and-white life-sized photograms from the mid-1970s that the artist called ANGELS.
Organized both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition will emphasize Conner’s polymathic abilities by integrating objects across the different mediums in which he worked. In addition to his most important bodies of work, the exhibition will feature aspects of Conner’s oeuvre that have rarely been seen before, including paintings from the 1950s, his photographs of punk bands from the 1970s, video work of the 2000s, and a large number of drawings, prints, and collages and media works that he made in the last decade of his life. During that period Conner continued to work with the moving image, as well as drawing, printmaking, and the creation of multiples, including a series of tapestries. Significantly, at this time Conner re-edited older film material and worked with large-scale digital installations. Late masterpieces like the multi-channel video installation THREE SCREEN RAY (2006) will be presented for the first time in conjunction with his historic works.