University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Bruce Conner

August 20 - September 26
Opening Reception: August 20, 5-8 pm

Location: INOVA/Kenilworth
Cost: Free

Film Screenings: UWM Union Theatre, September 14 & 21, 7 p.m.

Bruce Conner's death in 2008 marked the passing of a significant American artistic polymorph, whose art and influence covered the many mediums he chose to work in: film, performance, drawing, printmaking, collage, music, dance, photography and assemblage.

The Institute of Visual Arts, in cooperation with the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM), the collection of Natasha Nicholson and Thomas Garver, and the UWM Union Theatre, presents a survey of Conner's early drawings, prints, and ephemera from the era, along with a collection of 16-millimeter films. Prints from Conner's "THE DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW" series of 1971-73 will be featured, along with related ephemera from the era.

Guest co-curator John McKinnon, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the MAM, offers his view on Conner's enduring influence: "Conner cleverly side-stepped convention, making his work difficult to classify and ripe for continual rediscovery."

In cooperation with the MAM and the Conner Family Trust, the UWM Union Theatre is proud to present a collection of Conner's 16mm films, with two programs on consecutive "Experimental Tuesdays," Sept. 14 and 21, 2010 at 7pm. As Union Theatre Programmer Ross Nugent writes, "Conner's profoundly influential found-footage films are deftly woven meta-narratives: films-within-films that at once critique Americana while embracing it, and in doing so offer alternate ways of viewing advertising, television, and cinema's place in the world. Yet this instigation of the film materials was not simply reactionary, as he created works that are lyrical, autobiographical, and meditative. Deemed the 'Father of MTV' (Conner's response: "I demand a paternity test!"), his explosive editing style in conjunction with popular music surely preempted much of the audio/visual collage culture we've come to experience."

Esteemed scholar and curator Bruce Jenkins will introduce the Sept. 21 program and offer a presentation about Conner's illustrious career.

Conner's experiments in surrealistic states prefigure the emerging psychedelic era, as well as the prior experiments of Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and others in early film arts. His heavily worked drawings evoke voids coming into being as patterns, sometimes coalescing in steadily mesmerizing mandala forms. The image-collage "DENNIS HOPPER…" prints evoke the engravings of earlier centuries as much as the creepy sublime of David Cronenberg movies or Alien. But Conner's era-crossings are also evinced in the sweeter nostalgia of his deft collages, which nurture the passing of personal antiquities.

Tom Garver is a retired art museum director, now living in Madison, who organized Bruce Conner's first art museum exhibition. Natasha Nicholson was a personal friend of Conner's, and acquired the prints from him during the 1960s.

INOVA is proud to work with these presenting partners in bringing the work of this influential artist to UWM's diverse Peck School of the Arts programming and Milwaukee's hybrid artistic community.


Bruce Conner (American, 1933-2008)
16mm sepia film with soundtrack, 5 min.
Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase,
with funds from Contemporary Art Society M2007.25
© Bruce Conner. Courtesy The Conner Family Trust.