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Bruce Conner

PORTRAIT OF ALLEN GINSBERG
1960

Not on view

Date
1960

Classification
Sculpture

Medium
Wood, fabric, wax, metal can, glass, feathers, metal, string and spray paint

Dimensions
Overall: 19 15/16 × 11 5/16 × 21 3/8in. (50.6 × 28.7 × 54.3 cm)

Accession number
96.48

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee

Rights and reproductions
© Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A key figure in the Beat counterculture of the 1950s, Bruce Conner rejected bourgeois ideals of art as an expression of privileged creativity that produces a beautiful, eternal object. Instead, he challenged artists to deliver new forms based on new values—spontaneity, impurity, the degraded, and the marginal. In this portrait of the renowned Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, Conner thumbed his nose at the conventions of portraiture. Conner’s depiction of his friend is evocative rather than representational. Through this casual assemblage of junk materials and detritus, including a tin can, candles, wax, spray paint, and one of his favorite materials, nylon stockings, Conner conveyed the spirit of the unorthodox poet whose famous 1956 poem Howl begins: “I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.”  





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