DC -- American University -- Katzen Arts Center -- 2015B Spring I Exhibit: YES! Glue: A Half-Century of Collage by Bruce and Jean Conner:
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Description of Pictures: YES! Glue: A Half-Century of Collage by Bruce and Jean Conner
April 4 through May 24, 2015
Collage played a prominent and happily subversive role in the history of 20th century art; subversive because it undermined distinctions between "high" and "low" art by appropriating mass-produced images. Societal conventions were transgressed -- and provocative commentary encouraged -- because of the unexpected juxtapositions the collage process enabled. Beginning with Synthetic Cubism (Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque), the use of collage runs straight through Dada and Surrealism (Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, Man Ray, and Max Ernst), Abstract Expressionism (Conrad Marca-Relli, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Motherwell), Conceptual and Pop Art (Ray Johnson and Richard Hamilton), and Neo-Dada (Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns).
Collage found fertile ground in the San Francisco Beat scene of the late 1950s (Jess Collins and Jay DeFeo). It was into this milieu that Bruce Conner (1933–2008) and Jean Conner moved from Lincoln, Nebraska, immediately after their marriage on September 1, 1957. Bruce had already gained an international reputation with his assemblages and experimental films, and he had a knack for attracting notoriety with his often-disturbing subject matter and art materials. Jean, on the other hand, is a very reserved person still, and much less the provocateur. But both were completely dedicated to their art, and after their arrival in San Francisco, they were increasingly devoted to the medium of collage.
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Copyrights: All pictures were taken by amateur photographer Bruce Guthrie (me!) who retains copyright on them. Free for non-commercial use with attribution. See the [Creative Commons] definition of what this means. "Photos (c) Bruce Guthrie" is fine for attribution. (Commercial use folks including AI scrapers can of course contact me.) Feel free to use in publications and pages with attribution but you don't have permission to sell the photos themselves. A free copy of any printed publication using any photographs is requested. Descriptive text, if any, is from a mixture of sources, quite frequently from signs at the location or from official web sites; copyrights, if any, are retained by their original owners.
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Specific picture descriptions: Photos above with "i" icons next to the bracketed sequence numbers (e.g. " ") are described as follows:
KATGLU_150404_01.JPG: YES! Glue: A Half-Century of Collage by Bruce and Jean Conner
KATGLU_150404_04.JPG: THE DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW
In 1967, Conner stole the (public) name of his friend, the actor Dennis Hopper. He planned to present twenty-six of his own collages-surreal pastiches made from fragments of nineteenth-century wood engravings- as works by Hopper in an exhibition to be called THE DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW. Hopper's ignorance of the plan was crucial to its success, but Conner's idea was so subversive that he could not enlist his dealer, who had pragmatic questions such as who should be paid if works were sold, and what to do if Hopper came to the gallery and demanded to be given "his" work.
The scheme grew out of Conner's rumination on the power of names, and on his frustration that authorship played such a large part in establishing the value of an art object. According to Conner, one of his (unsigned) collages had once been "positively" identified by a "prominent art historian" as a work by Max Ernst. Did calling Conner's collage "an Ernst" momentarily increase its value or significance? Would the same thing occur if Conner's work was labeled with the name of a famous actor? And what about Hopper's own artwork? He was an actor (he made his living through the assumption of alternate identities), but he also made collages that seemed to borrow ideas from Conner who was, on the other hand, aware that he could easily fake a Max Ernst with the materials he had on hand. THE DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW was a fascinating philosophical tangle that challenged a basic art historical equation: object + name+ biography ÷ historical context x connoisseurship = value.
-- Joan Rothfuss, "Escape Artist," in 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II, (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1999), 163.
The exhibition that Conner conceived never happened. Etchings based on all twenty-six collages from the series were shown at the James Willis Gallery, San Francisco, and at the Texas Gallery, Houston, in 1973. Ten of those etchings are presented here at the American University Museum.
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