Bruce Conner Biography

Bruce Conner




Painter, printmaker, sculptor, photographer, videographer, and multimedia conceptual artist Bruce Guldner Conner was born in McPherson, Kansas, in 1933. He attended Wichita State and received his BFA from Nebraska University in 1956, and held his first solo gallery show in New York that same year. In addition to paintings and sculpture, Conner began to experiment with video assemblage, piecing together splices of old silent movies and newsreels to create a new narrative, set to music. 1957 he studied for a time at Colorado State, where he met and married the artist Jean Sandstedt.

The couple relocated to San Francisco following their wedding and in 1958 Conner began showing his assemblage art, for which he would soon gain recognition. Politically and socially charged, his work was seen as challenging the status quo, which was in line the rising tide of anti-consumerist, counterculture sentiment gaining momentum throughout the U.S. Conner quickly became associated with San Francisco's Beat poets and artists, cofounding the Rat Bastard Protective Association with artists Joan Brown, Jay De Feo, Manuel Neri, and Wallace Berman in 1959. The group dedicated their work and time to distancing themselves from staid, mainstream values.

Though he had gained traction as an artist in one of the leading arts scenes of his generation, with invitations to exhibit at galleries in San Francisco and New York, Conner disliked fame. As a prank in 1959 he sent notice of his death to "Who's Who in American Art," the leading reference catalogue of established artists in the U.S., and organized an exhibition of works by the "late Bruce Conner" at Spatsa Gallery. He later exhibited a series of his collages under the name of his friend, actor and photographer Dennis Hopper. This did not deter his rise among the ranks of the art world.By 1964 Conner had announced he would no longer create assemblages, though they were his most sought-after works. In 1967, he decided to take a break from the public artist life altogether, and he took jobs as a janitor and salesman for four years to support his wife and son while he created art for himself, focusing on drawing and photography. This led to a second career in art, and for the remainder of the 1970s and through the '80s and '90s Conner created collages of photography and ink-blot drawings.

Conner announced his retirement in 1999, but continued to create works until shortly before his death in July of 2008, with some being shown in local galleries. True to his contrary nature, however, these works would only be exhibited under the name "Anonymous."

You can find more information on the artist's career on this website.