Unlike last year's cinematic installment of the Star Wars saga (to say nothing of this year's museum show) the big-budget Bruce Conner retrospective blowout at the Walker Art Center was good enough to live up to its preshow hype. Consider these scenes: "Dark Brown" (1959) was a tear-jerking and poignantly oozing mass of oil paint, shellac, wood, fabric, jewelry, aluminum paint, canvas, and fur fringe--a prime example of the work that placed Conner at the center of a countermovement in the abstract expressionist-dominated art world of the 1960s. "A Movie" (1958) was an innovative and scratchy film of stock footage re-edited and rearranged with symphonic score, textual bits, and layers of odd repeating motifs. A mixed-media wizard, Conner constructed experimental films that predate everything that has been done on MTV with much more verve and flare. "Deus ex Machina" (1987) was a strange and obsessive collage of engravings and other drawings from old books rearranged to make a surrealistic scene evoking religious rituals and obscure cultural practices. Spanning the long career of this unjustly overlooked West Coast artist, and spreading through three galleries of the Walker, 2000 BC was so good that it may have helped bring this perennially innovative artist some of the acclaim he deserves--at last!


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