BROOKLYN RAIL | Bruce Conner: It's All True

It’s taken a long time for Bruce Conner (1933 – 2008), the polymath San Francisco artist who was a major force in the development of both found-object sculpture and experimental film in the United States, to be given a major retrospective. An iconoclastic innovator in multiple media, he spent five decades eluding definition, avoiding a signature style or association with any one movement. He was also a master of contradiction, creating challenging artworks that combine opposites such as sex and death, conceptuality and materiality, and spirituality and politics.

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ARTFORUM | Shine A Light: The Art of Bruce Conner

“WHAT A SHOW! WHAT A SHOW!” The reaction of the unseen, breathless, and elated MC at the end of Bruce Conner’s moving-image installation Three Screen Ray, 2006, is likely to be the exclamation of many a visitor exiting “Bruce Conner: It’s All True,” the revelatory retrospective of some 250 works currently installed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (through October 2). In his half century of making art, Conner (1933–2008) embraced painting, sculpture, assemblage, collage, drawing, photography, performance, and movies—all (save, perforce, performance) generously represented at MoMA.

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CRAVE | See the first complete retrospective of America’s premier avant-guardian, Bruce Conner

See the first complete retrospective of America’s premier avant-guardian, Bruce Conner.

“The artist has his role in our society that the madman had, that the fool had, that the prophet had …he’s a protected fool. The fool with his bells says foolish, stupid things, but every once in a while he also comes out with the truth,” American artist Bruce Conner (1933–2008) observed in an oral history interview for the Archives of American Art. “It’s a very dangerous job to be the fool. He’s got to eat at the king’s table and be part of the process. The king really wants him around because all the other people (who are real fools) wouldn’t say what they really meant.”

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL | ‘Bruce Conner: It’s All True’ Review: Placing His Dark Visions

Works that evoke an apocalyptic Americana, from an influential but underexplored figure.

At once deadpan and poetic, amorphous and rigorous, ironic and mystical, the work of the Kansas-born artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner (1933–2008) is as elusive as it is visionary. His death-haunted assemblages are redolent of revival tents, carnivals and junk shops, while his groundbreaking found-footage films reflect Atomic Age darkness and euphoria. He also created performances, immersive environments, photographs and collages documenting the punk scene, and meditative works on paper. A major figure in the art world of San Francisco, where he lived for much of his life, Conner was wary of being categorized—his art is thus widely influential but underexplored.

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THE VILLAGE VOICE | A Man Swallows the World: Bruce Conner's Jumbled Truth Rages On at MoMA

Bruce Conner, that cheerful iconoclast of postwar American art, was also its greatest glutton. The current retrospective at MoMA is a shrine to his appetite. All the fatty morsels of American culture — our sexual hangups and our dances with death, the people and packages we swap and sell and pulp and discard — are here mashed and swallowed, warped into aesthetic objects by the fizzing metabolism of Conner's sensibility. An event or concept will be fed to him (nuclear apocalypse, the Kennedy assassination, punk) only to be fused with everything else into a lump of jumbled form. Little surprise that he was an early champion of assemblage and found-footage film: They bespeak a compulsion to consume, to masticate, to be nourished and replenished by the sheer mass of things that clog our sensorium. His was an aesthetics of digestion: art as gut.

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THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS | The Creepy World of Bruce Conner

“It’s All True,” the title of the Museum of Modern Art’s powerful retrospective of the American artist Bruce Conner (1933-2008), comes from a letter Conner wrote to one of his gallerists in the aftermath of his only previous museum retrospective, organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1999:

My work is described as beautiful, horrible, hogwash, genius, maundering, precise, quaint, avant-garde, historical, hackneyed, masterful, trivial, intense, mystical, virtuosic, bewildering, absorbing, concise, absurd, amusing, innovative, nostalgic, contemporary, iconoclastic, sophisticated, trash, masterpieces, etc. It’s all true.

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HYPERALLERGIC | An Artist Who Possessed a Third Eye

Working in painting, drawing, assemblage, film, photography, photograms, performance, collage, and printmaking, Bruce Conner (1933–2008) made more discrete bodies of work across more mediums than any other postwar artist. A genius of the recondite and the banal, of occult disciplines and popular culture, he possessed the third or inner eye, meaning he was capable of microscopic and macroscopic vision, of delving into the visceral while attaining a state of illumination. He embraced – and at times seemed to revel in – the darkest understanding of what it meant to be mortal, as in these words by Edgar Allan Poe, which come at the end of his short story, “The Premature Burial”: “There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad Humanity may assume the semblance of a Hell…”

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL | Bruce Conner’s ‘Time Bombs’ Hit MoMA

When Bruce Conner died in 2008, it wasn’t the first time.

In 1960, the artist staged his own death in his first solo show, titled “The Work of the Late Bruce Conner.” By 1970, he had also convinced “Who’s Who in American Art” directory that he was deceased.

When “Bruce Conner: It’s All True,” the Museum of Modern Art’s massive career retrospective, opens Sunday, it will show the San Francisco-based artist in a state of constant rebirth. One of the most restless artistic minds of the postwar American scene, he experimented endlessly, producing abstract films and found-art assemblages, intricate felt-pen and blobby inkblot drawings, punk-scene photos and playful performances.

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ARTSY | Countercultural Icon and “Father of the Music Video” Bruce Conner Gets His Due in New York

As a child, the late artist Bruce Conner overheard his father exchanging pleasantries with a neighbor in their front yard. Their conversation was so stilted and trite that the young Conner thought they must have been speaking in code. At that moment, as his story goes, he reckoned that adults must be using language to hide something from children. “I learned to distrust words,” he told an interviewer in 1986. “I placed my bet on vision.”

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From July 3 to October 2, 2016, The Museum of Modern Art presents BRUCE CONNER: IT'S ALL TRUE, the first monographic museum exhibition in New York of the artist Bruce Conner, the first large survey of his work in 16 years, and the first comprehensive retrospective. The exhibition brings together over 250 objects in mediums including film and video, painting, assemblage, drawing, prints, photography, photograms, and performance.

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