President's Report Masthead
March 31, 2013
Book lends context to reclusive artist’s work

Art historian Kevin Hatch connects with reclusive artist Bruce Conner.

Book lends context to reclusive artist’s work

The woman liked Kevin Hatch’s voice: a soft-spoken tenor that inspired trust. So she’d be glad to help Hatch get in touch with iconoclastic — curmudgeonly and often reticent — artist Bruce Conner.

A few days later, a gruff voice came over the phone from San Francisco: “How can I help?” It was Conner, a counter-cultural artist with connections to Hippies, Beatniks, Punks and other culture movements. A man so uncomfortable with popularity that he changed media whenever he felt he was too hot a commodity.

Conner had a reputation for destroying dissertations and research projects. And now he was on the phone with Hatch, then a Princeton University doctoral candidate.

Hatch is an art historian with no art on the walls of his Binghamton University office, but his voice just oozes sincerity. And within days, CDs began to arrive: newspaper clippings of the high school art contest Conner won; notes on old film projects made of found film; letters to colleagues on the San Francisco art scene. It was gold to an art historian writing a book.

Treasures kept coming. The University of California at Berkeley even allowed Hatch into its Conner archives, which were off-limits to the public.

The result was “Looking for Bruce Conner,” a 2012 book that studies Conner’s work in depth, and places it in context of the San Francisco art scene as an influential form of anti-pop art far away from Warhol-dominated New York.

Read more about Hatch’s latest book in Discover-e