On the occasion of the retrospective dedicated to the artist Bruce Conner, Bruce Conner. It’s All True, at the Museo Reina Sofía (from February 22 to May 22, 2017), an encounter is presented between specialists Rudolf Frieling and Gary Garrels that seeks to analyze the influence of the creator in current artistic practices. Over the last decade, a number of artists have turned their attention to artistic figures from the last century who explored the production of hybrid forms, challenging artistic genres. In this sense, Bruce Conner (1933-2008) is one of the most representative cases.
The way Bruce Conner played with different roles and identities, his mix of styles spanning every technique, from painting to film and performance, via drawing, sculpture, photography and prints, gave rise to a long list of contradictory descriptions that saw critics interpret an eclectic practice, until the artist finally concluded “It’s all true”.
His commitment to materiality and language, both from collage and film, provides a historical example of art’s ongoing attempt to critically and playfully counteract the consumer culture of performance. Often wrongly called “the father of the music video”, Conner is, nevertheless, a prominent reference by dint of his meticulous yet also irreverent insight into mass culture. His films, often controversial from a political point of view, address themes such as violence in American culture, the objectification of the female body and nuclear apocalypse.
Moreover, today’s renewed interest in the most grotesque and fun strands in his work is connected to the impact of remixes and mashups from internet culture. Therefore, the encounter will survey works with either a complex exhibition history or with limited exposure; for instance, the assemblages and pieces the artist made at the end of his life, after officially retiring, in which he revisited, reformulated and refined old materials, such as his ‘90s punk collages or his ‘60s and ‘70s films, which he transferred to a digital format.
Rudolf Frieling has been curator of media arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art since 2006. Noteworthy exhibitions he has organised in the museum include In Collaboration: Early Works from the Media Arts Collection (2008), The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now (2008/2009) and Stage Presence: Theatricality in Art and Media (2012). He also recently curated Film as Place (2016) and has produced over twenty shows with Sylvie Blocher, Jim Campbell, David Claerbout, Bill Fontana, Douglas Gordon, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, Sharon Lockhart, William Kentridge and Christian Marclay, among other artists. Frieling is also co-curator of the retrospective Bruce Conner: It’s All True at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, (2016), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Reina Sofía (2016–2017).
Gary Garrels has been curator of Painting and Sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art since 2008, organising exhibitions like Jasper Johns: Seeing with the Mind's Eye (2012–2013) and co-curating Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective (2011). Garrels was also chief curator and deputy director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, from 2005 to 2008, and chief curator of Drawings and curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from 2000 to 2005, in addition to other institutional roles. He is co-curator of the retrospective Bruce Conner: It’s All True at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2016), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Reina Sofía (2016–2017).