Retrospective on Bruce Conner

Bruce Conner (1933–2008) was an important but (until now) a largely overlooked and under appreciated artist, often referred at the “best known least known artist.”

He was based in the Bay Area and created an astonishingly diverse body of work from assemblages, film, photography, prints, films from found footage and paintings that challenged then established notions of genre and styles.

His work is both illusive and allusive and continues to exert a profound influence on many contemporary artists.

His career is documented in “Bruce Conner: It’s All True” (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art/University of California Press), edited by Rudolf Frieling and Gary Garrels.

This is the catalog of an exhibition that is currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New and will be traveling to the newly renovated SF MoMA this fall, where it will be on view from October 29 through December 31.

It is the first comprehensive look at the artist’s work, collecting more than 250 pieces from all stages of his career.

The title of the show and catalog is taken from the last line of an artist’s statement of sorts in which Conner assembles a litany of comments about himself (artist, anti-artist, beatnik, hippie, punk, courteous, difficult, obscure, profane, surrealist, romantic and “one of the most important artists in the world.”)

This segues into a similar listing of various comments about his work: beautiful, trash, absurd, nostalgic, horrible, hackneyed, masterful, trivial, mystical, iconoclastic.

And, yes, the artist is absolutely correct, it is all true.

The profusely illustrated catalog cover and documents all aspects of Conner’s work and contains essays by a wide range of artists and critics from David Byrne, founder of the Talking Heads to artist Christian Marclay, poet Michael McClure and Greil Marcus, author of “The Dustbin of History” and many other books.

Whether or not you make it to the show in San Francisco this fall, the catalog is highly recommended.

Kirk Robertson covers the arts and may be reached at


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