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© Conner Family Trust, San Francisco. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.


Artist: Bruce Conner (Born in McPherson, Kansas, 1933–2008)
Culture: American
Date: c. 1970–1974
Medium: Offset lithograph on paper
Sheet: 12 3/16 x 12 11/16 inches (31 x 32.2 cm)
State: 8
Edition: 85
Classification: Print
Credit Line: Gift of Kristine Stiles
Label Text:Bruce Conner’s mandala works exist in many forms: rectangular and circular, small and large. All exemplify the artist’s precise and detailed method. From a distance, each appears to be a sea of grey and black, some with subtle circular formations throughout. Upon closer examination, the mandalas comprise seemingly infinite, exact ink marks on the paper that pull the eye across the page, immersing one’s vision in Conner’s intricate lines, folds, and forms. The lithographs seen here are based on drawings, which would often take Conner months to complete, sitting at his desk for up to ten hours a day. He described his drawing process as “tedious,” in part because of his self-imposed method and rigor in which he never permitted his felt-tip pen to cross over an existing line or even leave the surface of the paper. Working on this series of drawings for decades, Conner drafted each one until, in his own words, he would reach “the point that awareness is happening with the hand, and the eye, and the entire body in relation to the paper, and it would progress as a thought form across the page.”

The mandala itself originates in meditation devices related to Buddhism and Hinduism. However, Conner rejected the limited meaning that organized religion accrued to the mandala, explaining: “Rather than being esoteric, I see the circle as a common, universal ordering structure, one of the most fundamental in the world.” Although an influence on Conner, who was raised as a Christian, Eastern philosophy neither predominated nor was his only inspiration. His experiences using peyote and other hallucinogens, as well as the Pre-Columbian art he encountered in the early 1960s while living in Mexico, had an impact on his mandala works. By the end of his life, Conner almost exclusively worked in drawing, as illness made him too weak to execute works using any other medium. KH

Object number: 2018.18.5