Born: McPherson, KS
“When I was in New York it was like a maze, a rat maze, going from one little box to another little box and passing through passageways to get from one safe haven to another.”
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Known for his film making, assemblage, drawing, painting, collage, photographs, printmaking and conceptual events, Bruce Conner was born in McPherson, Kansas on November 18, 1933 and raised in Wichita.He attended Wichita State and got his BFA from Nebraska University in 1956. He also studied at the University of Colorado where he met and married Jean Sandstedt in 1957 after which, they left for San Francisco.
Conner was a hard working artist who has spent much of his life searching for artistic truth. He is best known for his assemblage, but turned to other mediums after 1964 because he did not want to be only associated with one style. He achieved much fame but showed little interest in its trappings. In fact, he often refused to be photographed and often did not sign his work. As a prank, he sent a notice of his death to “Who’s Who in American Art,” and exhibited a series of his collages under the name of his friend, Dennis Hopper. However, a Walker Art Gallery retrospective in 2000 has given him much public exposure.
In the early 1960s, he became a key figure among artists in San Francisco, a city where he and his wife, Jean, arrived in 1957 from his childhood home of Wichita, Kansas. Conner and his artist friends including Joan Brown, Jay De Feo, Manuel Neri, and Wallace Berman, formed the Rat-Bastard Protective Association, a counter-culture group to distance themselves from mainstream values. They became known as Beat-Generation artists who looked for something deeper than what they perceived as the shallow pieties of Eisenhower dominated America.
Continuing to search for something beyond conventional America, he spent two years in Mexico where he did embryonic drawings in obsessive patterning. He returned to San Francisco and went into a period of exile from 1967 to 1971 when he quit exhibiting or teaching art. He supported himself by being a janitor and a salesman and made art only for himself. He developed inkblot drawings that explored symmetry and chance and experimented with methods of photography and film. Bruce Conner died in San Francisco, California on July 7, 2006.