Iconoclastic artist Bruce Conner
out artwork with a speed and a whirlwind, anecdotal style worthy of his
Beat-era peers, but unlike San Francisco pals Allen Ginsberg
painter Jay DeFeo
, Conner never settled on any one medium. His work includes
assemblages of found items, re-cut avant-garde films, pen drawings, and,
beginning in the mid-’60s, printmaking—a dedicated, 40-year stint surveyed by Senior & Shopmaker Gallery
at this year’s IFPDA Print Fair. Often irreverent, though just
as frequently studied and spiritual, the collection shows the range of the
Many of the images at IFPDA are expectedly
satirical and anti-authoritarian. 1970’s APPLAUSE is reminiscent of the
ominous blinking “APPLAUSE” cue, serving the illusions of mass entertainment by
disciplining its audience, and the more recent BOMBHEAD is a blunt
critique of militarism and modern science (its eponymous subject proudly dons
the atom on its lapel). But it is perhaps more interesting to us today that the
artist was as forward-thinking in his practice as he was in his subject matter.
APPLAUSE is notable as a lithograph of a felt tip drawing, a
newly-debuted medium at the time, and BOMBHEAD’s inkjet print, sourced
from appropriated photographs, was utterly contemporary for 2002.
Other lithographs on display merge the
artist’s embrace of felt tip pens with lesser-known influences. #121 in
Conner’s “100 Series” of pen drawings is nearly tribal in appearance but offset
by perfect, white circles. PACIFIC OCTOBER 9,
2002 - JANUARY 16, 2003 exemplifies the artist’s totemic ink blots
and merges modern history with a historical and psychological murkiness. And,
finally, 2003’s inkjet print NIGHT LIGHT simplifies the artist’s
drawings and ink blots in both image and process, serving as a fitting
near-coda for the artist’s printmaking career.
Not easily classifiable, and often pursuing
juxtaposition, the prints at IFPDA are as influenced by the brashness of the
1970s west coast punk scene as by the Victorian (and even pre-Victorian)
imagery of San Francisco’s past. Still, it is perhaps these modest-sized,
intimate prints which allow us to get nearest to the artist’s restless muse.