Bruce Conner: It’s All True

December 2015

Bruce Conner, LOOKING GLASS, 1964; mannequin arms, dried blowfish, painted wood, glass, shoe, cardboard, cut and pasted printed papers, paint, nylon stockings, fabric, jewelry, beads, string, doll's voice box, fur, artificial flowers, feathers, garter clip, tinsel, and metal on Masonite, 60 1/2 in. x 48 in. x 14 1/2 in. (153.67 cm x 121.92 cm x 36.83 cm); Collection SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Gift of the Modern Art Council; © Estate of Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Defying strict classification and transcending the limitations of any single genre, multimedia artist Bruce Conner will be celebrated in an extensive retrospective at SFMOMA October 29, 2016 January 22, 2017 after its initial iteration at MoMA NY. Referencing the artist’s inimitable and ever-changing methods, the subtitle of the exhibition — It’s All True — was derived from a letter that the artist wrote to his friend and collaborator, Paula Kirkeby, in 2000, listing the many ways he had been characterized in the media.

I am an artist, an anti-artist, no shrinking ego, modest, a feminist, a profound misogynist, a romantic, a realist, a surrealist, a funk artist, conceptual artist, minimalist, postmodernist, beatnik, hippie, punk, subtle, confrontational, believable, paranoiac, courteous, difficult, forthright, impossible to work with, accessible, obscure, precise, calm, contrary, elusive, spiritual, profane, a Renaissance man of contemporary art, and one the most important artists in the world. 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.

Conner, who died in 2008 after having lived in the Bay Area for more than fifty years, is not only a seminal figure regionally, but also nationally and beyond. His avant-garde film work remains a touchstone in the international film scene, as well as across a spectrum of contemporary art. The exhibition at SFMOMA will be the most comprehensive view of Conner’s work to date and will include more than 300 works from all media.

From his early assemblages in the 1950s and 60s to his iconic and pioneering work with the language of film, from his photography and photograms to his prints, drawings and paintings — the sheer diversity of works created during the course of Conner’s career is astounding. With Bruce Conner: It’s All True, SFMOMA pays homage to this exceptional Bay Area artist and places him in an international context, marking the tremendous influence he has had on generations of artists, and continues to exert today.

Bruce Conner, LOOKING GLASS, 1964; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Modern Art Council; © Estate of Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell