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Bruce Conner

PORTRAIT OF ALLEN GINSBERG

1960

Artist

Bruce Conner (1933-2008)

Title

PORTRAIT OF ALLEN GINSBERG

Date

1960

Medium

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

Dimensions

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

Credit line

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

Accession number

96.48

Object Label

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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