22 Feb — 22 May 2017 at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain
Bruce Conner (1933, McPherson, Kansas - 2008, San Francisco) is one of the most pre-eminent American artists from the second half of the twentieth century. This exhibition, the first to present his work in Spain, brings together more than 250 works which span his fifty-year career.
Conner’s work emerged from the California art scene and addressed wide-ranging questions concerning American society in the post-war era: from the burgeoning consumer culture to the dread of nuclear apocalypse. In his work he cultivated alternate mediums - now the hallmarks of 21st-century art - adopting different techniques and often creating hybrid pieces midway between painting and sculpture, film and performance, drawing and printing.
Early on in his career, he stood out as one of the first artists to make installations with found materials, while his relief and free-standing sculptures, for instance Child (1959) and Looking Glass (1964), received critical acclaim at the time for their masterful compositions and markedly sombre nature. Furthermore, he was one of the pioneers of avant-garde film-making, redefining the notion of film by including footage from highly diverse sources – from the countdown leaders of early films in the medium, to movie trailers and training films and newsreels – to which he added his own 16 mm footage. He also developed a quick-cut editing method which distinguished his work, along with his pop soundtracks, for example in the pieces Cosmic Ray (1961) and Breakaway (1966), regarded as forerunners of the music video.
Much like his installations, Conner’s films deal with unsettling themes that still ring true today. He frequently adopted an incisive political stance and addressed problems such as violence in American culture, the objectification of the female body and the nuclear holocaust. By virtue of his structural innovations and daring subject matter, films such as A Movie (1958), Report (1963-1967) and Crossroads (1976) have become landmarks of experimental American cinema.