HYPERALLERGIC: A Celebration of the Rat Bastards

John Yau

A Celebration of the Rat Bastards: Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jean Conner, Jay DeFeo, George Herms, Wally Hedrick, and Others

 Installation view of “RAT BASTARD PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION” (2017), Susan Inglett, New York (all images courtesy Susan Inglett gallery)

Installation view of “RAT BASTARD PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION” (2017), Susan Inglett, New York (all images courtesy Susan Inglett gallery)

Shortly after coming to San Francisco, Conner formed what he christened the “Rat Bastard Society.” Conner told the curator Peter Boswell that the name was fitting for “people who were making things with the detritus of society, who themselves were ostracized or alienated from full involvement with society.”

For many years, Bruce Conner’s film THE WHITE ROSE (1967) was all we knew of Jay DeFeo’s painting “The Rose” (1958-66). Conner made the film on November 9, 1965, when Bekins Moving & Storage Company forklifted the painting out of her second story apartment and studio at 2322 Fillmore Street, San Francisco. By the next day, all the inhabitants of that building, which another resident, Michael McClure, had dubbed “Painterland,” had moved out.

In her book, WELCOME TO PAINTERLAND: Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association (University of California Press, 2016), Anastasia Aukeman has written eloquently and thoroughly about the milieu in which this iconoclastic group of artists, poets, musicians, and publishers thrived from 1957  — when Conner and wife, Jean Sandsted, arrived in San Francisco from Lincoln, Nebraska  — to the day “The Rose” was removed from DeFeo’s apartment.

Shortly after coming to San Francisco, Conner formed what he christened the “Rat Bastard Society.” According to Aukeman, Conner derived the name from “a San Francisco trash collectors’ organization, the Scavenger’s Protective Association [combined] with a slur picked up at the gym.” As Aukeman further details in her marvelous book, in 1983, Conner told the curator Peter Boswell that the name was fitting for “people who were making things with the detritus of society, who themselves were ostracized or alienated from full involvement with society.”

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Source: https://hyperallergic.com/378641/rat-basta...