Bruce Conner was an American conceptual artist and member of the San Francisco Beat movement. A would-be collaboration with his friend, the poet Michael McClure (1932–2020), DECK was conceived of as a set of cards, each printed with a single inkblot lithograph on one side and a pair of words on the reverse. Paula Cooper Gallery’s presentation of DECK drawings marks the first time these works have been shown as a group. Rather than recognizing his works as fixed products, Conner consistently edited or repurposed his own drawings, sculptures and films. Shown here as a group for the first time, Conner’s DECK drawings speak to the artist’s pioneering peripatetic yet iterative practice. Formally rigorous, these maze- like drawings negate external references and dissolve figure/ground boundaries. This led to the production of some one hundred prints, from small, single sheets to suites of up to twenty-five related panels (titled SET OF THREE, SET OF FOUR, etc.). Conner’s immersive felt-tip drawing process took on a performative aspect as the artist spent continuous hours making them, never lifting pen from paper in order to produce a graphically uninterrupted line. Created in the summer of 1975, Conner’s DECK drawings are some of the artist’s very first works in the INKBLOT series—one of his most expansive bodies of works. He received his BFA at Nebraska University in 1956 and continued his studies with scholarships at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the University of Colorado. Rather than recognizing his works as fixed products, Conner consistently edited or repurposed his own drawings, sculptures and films. (33.7 x 54 cm). Throughout his fifty-year career, Conner embraced change in endless forms, producing stunningly inventive works grounded in a rigorous structural precision. The discrete twenty-four inkblots were created for Conner’s unrealized DECK project. A decade later, these collages became the source material for a series of photo etchings produced with Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press in Oakland, CA and published in 1971-73. Often structured by circular mandala forms, they attest to the artist’s deep knowledge of occult and Eastern philosophies. Paula Cooper Gallery’s presentation of DECK drawings marks the first time these works have been shown as a group. The retinal effect of his starkly monochromatic drawings of the 1960s and 1970s is achieved through the use of densely woven lines, creating highly complex shifting patterns. INKBLOT DRAWING AUGUST 4, 1975 (detail), 1975. ink. Bruce Conner. Images inspired by nature, Leaf September 11-December 7, 2001, and Dark Leaf, relate to elegiac drawings the artist made in response to the 9/11 attacks. Setting himself and his work in critical opposition to mainstream American society, versatile and restlessly inventive artist Bruce Conner was a key part of the San Francisco Beat scene in the late 1950s. In the mid-1970s and continuing sporadically for the rest of his career, Conner produced inkblot drawings of startling variety and innovation: grids of small, calligraphic shapes executed by blotting small puddles of ink between the folds of accordion-pleated sheets of paper. Drawings and prints of later years are credited to “Anonymous” and “Anonymouse”, two of several alter egos invented by Conner to manipulate the idea of artistic identity and authorship. Bruce Conner (1933-2008) was born in McPherson, Kansas and moved to San Francisco in the late 1950s where he became a pivotal figure in the Beat scene of poets, writers, artists and performers. Believing hand-drawn and inked lithography interfered with the precision of his imagery, the artist chose a commercial offset process, flouting print world conventions by using photomechanical rather than fine art printing. Conner’s collages depict a surreal, hallucinatory universe populated by images of flora and fauna, machine parts, and disembodied figures. BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE is the artist’s first monographic museum exhibition in New York, the first large survey of his work in 16 years, and the first complete retrospective of his 50-year career. The sequential relationship between one drawing and another - the unfolding of form to form - is preserved to great effect in the thematic organization of the print portfolios. Linking the artist’s extensive graphic oeuvre to his work in other media is a command of light and shadow that permeates images hovering between fugitive and eternal, fantasy and reality. The unwillingness in the mid-1960s of his Los Angeles dealer Nicholas Wilder to exhibit the work under another’s name, as well as Conner’s refusal to reveal his own identity, led to their relative obscurity during this time period. (33.7 x 54 cm), framed dimensions: 13 1/4 x 21 1/4 in. In 2016, Conner was the subject of the major monographic survey “BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE,” which opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid. Conner’s works are in the collections of many major museums, including The Guggenheim Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Museum of Modern Art; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Art Institute of Chicago; The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; and The Centre Pompidou, Paris. Another notable print series dating from 1971 is titled DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW The genesis for this print project dates back to the late 1950s, when Conner began a series of paper collages using fragments of 19th-century engraved illustrations styled on those by French Surrealist Max Ernst. Conner experimented with intricate geometric drawings throughout his life, as in his Book Pages series (1967) which present sheets of paper almost entirely filled with continuous, wandering lines, as well as in his Rorschach-like inkblot drawings of the 1990s and 2000s. (15.2 x 10.2 cm), frame: 13 1/4 x 21 1/4 in. Active in all media, including painting, collage and assemblage, sculpture, graphic arts, filmmaking, and photography, Conner brought a radical and iconoclastic approach to art-making, questioning and rejecting ideals of artistic purity, style, and identity, as well as the market-driven dynamic of the art world. Composed of tiny, intricate, filigree patterns on white paper, inkblots became Conner’s main artistic medium in the last decades of his life, during which he experimented with amplified scale. E-Catalogue: Bruce Conner, Afterimage, The Prints of Bruce Conner, 2012. Conner printed a limited number of unbound etchings, which will be on view in the exhibition. Middle banner: Bruce Conner, TRIO 52-19-1 (detail), 1975, ink, each card: 6 x 4 in. frame: 15 3/4 x 13 1/2 in. Born in McPherson, Kansas, Bruce Conner (1933–2008) was raised in Wichita where he attended Wichita University. In a performative full- circle, Conner returned the collages to their original printed state, producing twenty-six etchings bound in three black leather volumes and titled collectively DENNIS HOPPER ONE MAN SHOW VOLUMES I–III. Several of Conner’s DECK drawings introduce wispy, interconnected blots, while others are darkly inked and drawn with greater sharpness—like small, self-contained space invaders or hieroglyphics. E-Catalogue: Bruce Conner, Dennis Hopper One Man Show , 2016. A person playing with the set would produce different poetic phrases by arranging and rearranging the cards. A would-be collaboration with his friend, the poet Michael McClure (1932–2020), DECK was conceived of as a set of cards, each printed with a lithographic reproduction of single inkblot on one side and a pair of words on the reverse. Placing drops of ink, one at a time, and then pressing the fold to create the mirror impression, Conner repeated the action hundreds of times for a single drawing. In 2000, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, organized a retrospective of Conner’s work titled “2000 BC: THE BRUCE CONNER STORY, PART II,” which traveled to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the M.H. Emerging from the West Coast countercultural movement, he restlessly explored mysticism and spirituality, punk rock and psychedelia, while tenaciously rejecting American jingoism and consumerism. All images © 2020 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS). (40 x 34.3 cm) Inquire Born in McPherson, Kansas, Bruce Conner (1933–2008) was raised in Wichita where he attended Wichita University. He first became known for his assemblages (made between 1957-1964) crafted from an assortment of cast-off materials. Totemic and enigmatic, these rows of symmetrically arranged patterns read as documents scripted in a mysterious language.