AMERICAN UNIVERSITY | APRIL 4 – MAY 24, 2015
Collage played a prominent and happily subversive role in the history of 20th century art; subversive because it undermined distinctions between "high" and "low" art by appropriating mass-produced images. Societal conventions were transgressed—and provocative commentary encouraged—because of the unexpected juxtapositions the collage process enabled. Beginning with Synthetic Cubism (Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque), the use of collage runs straight through Dada and Surrealism (Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, Man Ray, and Max Ernst), Abstract Expressionism (Conrad Marca-Relli, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Motherwell), Conceptual and Pop Art (Ray Johnson and Richard Hamilton), and Neo-Dada (Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns).
Collage found fertile ground in the San Francisco Beat scene of the late 1950s (Jess Collins and Jay DeFeo). It was into this milieu that Bruce Conner (1933–2008) and Jean Conner moved from Lincoln, Nebraska, immediately after their marriage on September 1, 1957. Bruce had already gained an international reputation with his assemblages and experimental films, and he had a knack for attracting notoriety with his often-disturbing subject matter and art materials. Jean, on the other hand, is a very reserved person still, and much less the provocateur. But both were completely dedicated to their art, and after their arrival in San Francisco, they were increasingly devoted to the medium of collage.
—Excerpt from the exhibition catalog by Jack Rasmussen