Bruce Conner: Avant-Garde Filmmaking

This summer, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) stages Bruce Conner’s (1933–2008) first monographic museum exhibition in New York. Comprised of 250 objects ranging from film and video to painting, assemblage, drawing, prints, photography and performance, It’s All True is the largest survey of the artist’s work in 16 years.

One of the leading American practitioners of the post-war era, Conner emerged from the California art scene, where he continued to work for over 50 years. Focusing on key themes of post-war American society, many of his projects, whether executed in film, painting or sculpture, examined contemporary topics such as the rise of consumer culture and the dread of nuclear war.

Innovative in both his thinking and making strategies, Conner produced expansive bodies of work, some of which featured hybrids of painting and sculpture, film and performance, drawing and printing, and photography. Iconic piece Angels (1973-1975) comprises a melancholic group of life-sized photograms, while Child (1959) and Looking Glass (1964) consist of free-standing sculptures that play with the concept of found-object assemblage.

Conner is equally recognised as a pioneer of avant-garde filmmaking. His quick-cut process of editing and incorporation of footage from a range of sources, including countdown leaders, training films and newsreels, defined his work in this media. Later, through the addition of his own 16mm footage, the artist was able to explore new avenues within topical themes. Cinematic landmarks A Movie (1958) and Crossroads (1976) are remarked upon for their structural ingenuity and stark subject matter.

Bruce Conner, It’s All True, until 2 October, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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1. Bruce Conner, Crossroads (promotional still). 1976. 35mm film (black and white, sound), 37 min. Digitally restored 2013. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase), with the generous support of the New Art Trust. Courtesy Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner.