ARTS Magazine | Review of Bruce Conner Show at Alan Gallery NYC

Bruce Conner: Outside a fat man’s clothing store in this city is a sign proclaiming, among other things, that there would be no war if all the world were fat. Not a particularly original idea, but it might be worth bearing in mind in any future attempt at world creating. It might also be a good plan, next time around, to endow Good with some of the fatal allure that Evil has, and which is so alarmingly evident in these sculptures. Actually, there are only two pieces of true sculpture; the rest are collages, and assemblages of miscellaneous items fused into horrendous reliefs and free-standing objects, all of which exude a rampaging, cancerous life. So good are they that the identity of the ingredients is obliterated, and it requires some intellectual effort to discern the lampshades, jewelry, feathers, etc., that created this atmosphere of decay. The general effect is of mutilated things suffocated by the web of a monstrous, intelligent spider, and it is no comfort to find that the web is composed of torn-up stockings, which thumbscrews would not persuade one to touch to ascertain if they are nylon or silk. It is likely that many viewers will feel that Conner is only a sensationalist (he errs on that side when arranging skulls and burning candles), but even if one is not impressed by the horror, it is impossible to miss his deadly skill at making objects, a skill that is even more obvious in the two sculptures. One, in reddish wax, is a manikin strapped to a wooden chair. It is mauled and misshapen, and the head, blindfolded by the web, is thrown back with its mouth open. The other, a beautifully modeled crucifix in black wax, is even more startling, possibly because the black cobwebs that hang from it make it look so irrevocably forsaken. Whether Conner’s appreciation of evil is conscious or unconscious is not clear, nor is it really relevant, for this has ever been a powerful driving force for art, even if the artist does not say which side he is on. However, regardless of Conner’s motives, the Sane Nuclear people might have more success if he were to handle their public relations.

(Alan, Oct. 2–21.)  – V.R.