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BAM/PFA Acquires Bruce Conner Photographic Series (October 8, 2007)
San Francisco’s thriving punk scene of the late 1970s captured in Conner’s photographic series Mabuhay Gardens.
Berkeley, CA, October 8, 2007— The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to announce the acquisition of a series of fifty-three photographs by artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner. The series, Mabuhay Gardens, documents San Francisco’s new avant-garde of the late 1970s: the punk scene that was evolving in the city’s clubs.
In 1977, Conner—a key figure in the Bay Area avant-garde since the ‘50s—discovered the Mabuhay Gardens, a seedy nightclub turned punk venue on Broadway in San Francisco; there he met the publisher V. Vale, who in 1978 invited Conner to contribute to his new magazine Search and Destroy. Conner offered to photograph the punk rock shows at the Mab. “I had always liked the idea of action photos,” he said later. “Like—sports events. . . . Or combat photography. . . . Maybe I could work on that here.”
The dynamic and spontaneous yet tightly composed images capture now-legendary bands like the Avengers, Negative Trend, and the Mutants, along with the many lesser-known acts and fans who passed through the Mabuhay. BAM/PFA already holds several important works by Conner, including films, assemblages, and works on paper. The acquisition of these two portfolios of photographs, printed in 1985 and 2004, bring a new dimension of this artist’s work into the BAM/PFA collection, and preserve a vital Bay Area moment.
Conner has been producing work that defies easy categorization for a period of more than four decades. He first attracted art-world attention with assemblages he created from found objects including women’s underwear, broken dolls, and Victoriana. The themes addressed in these works—consumerism and discarded beauty—prefaced those of social commentary and dissension which figure prominently in his later work. In addition to his early assemblages, Conner is perhaps best known for his short films, but he has also worked in painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, printmaking, and photography.
Conner was born in 1933 in McPherson, Kansas, and currently lives and works in San Francisco. After receiving his B.F.A. in art at Nebraska University, he attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School, where he studied for a semester before attending the University of Colorado on scholarship. He moved to San Francisco in 1957 with his wife Jean Sandstedt, and quickly assimilated into the city’s famous Beat community.
In the late ‘50s Conner also began making the short films that have made him one of the most significant figures in experimental filmmaking. As with much of his other work, his films rely heavily on assemblage, piecing together found and new footage in fast-paced collages that are now considered precursors to the modern music video genre. In the 1970s Conner focused on drawing and photography, producing the life-sized photographs from the Angels series (1973-1975). In recent years, Conner has continued to work on a small scale, producing mainly collages and drawings.
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. BAM/PFA is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, presenting fifteen art exhibitions and five hundred film programs each year. The museum’s collection of more than 15,000 works includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Packard Humanities Institute, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, the Christensen Fund, and other private foundations and corporations, and our individual donors and members. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
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