Bruce Conner emerged from the California Beat scene in the 1950s to become one of the leading American artists working in the postwar era. Working across the mediums of painting, drawing, assemblage, print-making, photography, film, video, and performance, Conner’s work explores potent themes of postwar American society, such as unrelenting consumerism and the anxiety over nuclear war. “My work is described as beautiful, horrible, hogwash, genius, maundering, precise, quaint, avant-garde, historical, hackneyed, masterful, trivial,” the artist once wrote, listing numerous contradictions before concluding “it’s all true.”
Works in the Addison’s collection are precursors to Conner’s well-known inkblot drawings, both characterized by intricate and swirling designs, the strategic use of negative space, and expert mark making. In the selection exhibited here, line becomes its own dizzying medium, often overwhelming the visual field through a constellation of squiggles and dots. In #120 Mandala and #115 concentric circles hang in a space saturated with complex designs. These lines whirl back on themselves to eclipse each circle, disorienting the viewer’s gaze, which is at once drawn to the floating spheres and to the multidirectional lines that encapsulate them.
Other prints, like #123 and #114, move away from the iconography of the circle to engulf the white paper background with the same dots and lines, loosely rendered to create light and space, as well as tightly clustered to produce shadowy forms that pull the eye across the dizzying composition. The Addison’s black inky lithographs demonstrate Conner’s adept print-making skills and anticipate the next page in his dynamic oeuvre.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:Light/Dark, White/Black, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/17/2015 - 7/31/2015
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