The Reina Sofía Museum (MNCARS) is putting on the first monographic exhibition in Spain dedicated to Bruce Conner (Kansas, USA, 1933-San Francisco, USA, 2008), one of the leading American artists of the second half of the twentieth century, who dealt with some of the core concerns of post-war America in his work.
Going over Conner’s 50-year career, the MNCARS exhibition includes more than 250 works illustrating the artist’s major themes: criticism of the consumerist culture, fear of nuclear apocalypse, and so on. Conner used a variety of media and techniques, in which he was a forerunner of twenty-first-century art. Many of his works are hybrids standing somewhere between painting and sculpture, performance and film, drawing and engraving.
Moreover, he was one of the first artists to make installations with recycled materials. Some of these works, like Child (1959) or Looking Glass (1964), were widely acclaimed when first shown.
Likewise, Conner is a pioneer in the avant-garde in film. In fact, he redefined the very notion of film by using all kinds of footage, including 16mm sequences shot by himself. He developed an easy editing method and made his own pop music soundtracks. Works like Cosmic Ray (1961) and Breakaway (1966) are considered to be the first music videos in the current sense of the term.
Conner’s installations and films deal with issues that have not lost relevance – violence in American culture, reification of the female body, nuclear holocaust –, and he usually took on a pungent political perspective.
Both thematically and structurally striking, Conner’s experimental films – A Movie (1958), Report (1963-1967), Crossroads (1976) – are now classics in the American film library.