The curse that afflicts brilliant filmmakers from Keaton to Welles to Altman is that its essentially impossible for future audiences to grasp how bold and fresh their innovations were at the time. Blame the copycats and ripoff artists other moviemakers, certainly, but primarily the descended-from-vultures directors of TV commercials and music videos who take the ideas of genuine risk-takers and sand off the social commentary and spiky edges for mainstream consumption. Long Play: Bruce Conner and the Singles Collection summons the visionary ghost of the experimental filmmaker who first paired popular music with found footage, unleashing an energy and excitement that has yet to abate. In Cosmic Ray (1961), Conner set slashes of female nudity, postwar plastic, and Cold War angst to the stomping, lascivious beat of Ray Charles Whatd I Say? He revisited the piece over the years, ultimately recutting it into the multiple-projector installation Three Screen Ray. This hard-rocking work is accompanied by choice selections from video artists Pipilotti Rist, Cory Arcangel, and Michael Bell-Smith, who came along later to create equally subversive marriages of music and image. The proof of Conners genius is that his work still kicks out the jams.
Jan. 20-May 23, 2010