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Bruce Conner


Power Failure

Assemblage on pressed board
65.25 x 49 x 3 in. (165.735 x 124.46 x 7.62 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

Bruce Conner assembled POWER FAILURE while residing in Brookline, Massachusetts. The piece is typical of Conner’s ad hoc constructions, with random bits of found industrial and prefabricated material scattered across the surface. The upper portion of the work is covered with battered pieces of roofing paper, while the lower portion is veiled by an old wire window screen. A fragment of gold fabric with fringe, glass shards, and bits of rope oats in the lower right corner, alongside a piece of plastic wrap marked with the letter A and a red rose. Skirting the upper and lower halves of the window screen are multicolored bundles of electrical wires placed near a lightbulb socket wrapped with string.

The inclusion of the wrapped string and the image of a rose connect the work directly to Marcel Duchamp’s use of premade materials, and obliquely to his alter ego Rrose Sélavy. Conner had attended a lecture by Duchamp in the fall of 1963 at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum entitled “Apropos of Myself.” Conner brought to the lecture a ball of white string, along with a glass-and-metal box from Mexico City with a rubber name stamp placed inside. (Between 1961 and 1965 Conner did not sign his work, instead using a rubber name stamp, or forgoing a signature entirely.) During the lecture Conner wrapped the box with string in a performance that paid homage to Duchamp’s surrealist installation 16 Miles of String (1942); afterward he presented the box to Duchamp as a gift for their mutual friend, the gallerist Charles Alan.

Marissa Vigneault

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