Bruce Conner artist

BFA, 1956

"Born in McPherson, Kansas, in 1933, Conner studied art at the University of Nebraska, which awarded him a B.F.A. in 1956. He continued his studies at the Brooklyn Museum 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 De Feo, 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.

Conner first attracted attention in the late 1950s with his moody, nylon-shrouded assemblages, which were complex amalgams of such found objects as women's stockings, bicycle wheels, broken dolls, fringe, fur, costume jewelry and candles, often combined with collaged or painted surfaces. Erotically charged and tinged with echoes of both the Surrealist tradition and of San Francisco's Victorian past, these works established Conner as a leading figure within the international assemblage "movement."

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. His innovative technique can best be 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. Conner was among the first to use pop music for film sound tracks. His films have inspired generations of filmmakers and are now considered to be the precursors of the music video genre.

During the 1960s Conner became an active force in the San Francisco counterculture as a collaborator in light shows for the legendary Family Dog at the Avalon ballroom, and through his intricate black-and-white mandala drawings and elaborate collages made from scraps of 19th-century engravings, all of which remain icons of the period's sensory-based spirituality. During the 1970s he focused on drawing and photography, producing dramatic, life-sized photograms as well as intimately scaled inkblot drawings. In his later career, Conner continued to work on a small scale, producing collages and inkblot drawings that have been shown in numerous group exhibitions, including the 1997 Whitney Biennial. Throughout Conner's entire body of work, the recurrence of religious imagery and symbology underscores the essentially visionary nature of his work. Conner continued to make art until shortly before his death.

Photo of Bruce Conner
Bruce Conner