In Bruce Conner’s electric THREE SCREEN RAY (2006), a new acquisition that premieres in this exhibition, Ray Charles’s 1959 hit song “What’d I Say” is set to an ecstatic, frenzied collage — nude women, bomb explosions, fireworks — of original and preexisting imagery, including war newsreels, cartoons, and TV commercials. A tour de force of editing and experimental film techniques, the piece features Conner’s manipulations of the film surface itself and his signature use of countdown leader. The work’s point of departure and central image is Conner’s 1961 film COSMIC RAY, which he adapted to three screens in 1965 and later reedited to create this gallery installation of three video projections. A rotating series of “singles,” single-channel video works related to music or appropriating found footage, is presented in an adjoining gallery alongside Conner’s MEA CULPA (1981), a forerunner of the music video genre. The May singles program moves beyond the SFMOMA collection to feature contemporary works by Bay Area artists Anne Colvin, John Davis, Kota Ezawa, and Anne McGuire.
Long Play: Bruce Conner and the Singles is presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of 75 Years of Looking Forward, a series of exhibitions and events organized in celebration of the museum’s anniversary.