I like the works ... to be seen as phenomena. It’s one of the reasons you don’t see a signature … I don’t want the signature to predispose you as to an attitude about what this is. And that if it looks like it came out because of a chemical reaction, whether it’s a mineral event or whatever, or whether it’s by somebody who you’ve never heard of before, I want that piece to be seen on that same level.
Bruce Conner at TamarindLithography Workshop
In 1965, Bruce Conner received a two-month fellowship at the prestigious Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles, which was founded by June Wayne in 1960. At a time when printmaking was held in low regard, she raised the profile of the medium by inviting contemporary artists to the workshop including Sam Francis, Louise Nevelson, Josef and Anni Albers, Ed Ruscha and Bruce Conner.
Much as the Ford Foundation grant Conner received that same year for film-making caused him anxiety and roused a rambunctious streak in him, his time at Tamarind was spent subverting sacrosanct practices of printmaking. Cal Goodman, the acting director at Tamarind while Wayne was away in Europe, even discharged Conner from the residency after Conner tried to edition a cancelled print. When Wayne returned, she was delighted by Conner's antics and allowed him back in—his affection for her is captured in his print This Space Reserved for June Wayne.
Conner created fourteen prints during his time at Tamarind, each in an edition of twenty, and refused to sign them, opting instead to mark them with a thumbprint (normally a much-dreaded result of pulling prints with ink-covered fingers). This act points to his perpetual struggle with notions of authorship, his identity as an individual and an artist, and adhering to anything nearing convention. One print in particular he made, a photo-lithograph replica of his birth certificate, drew ire from Wayne, as she had built her whole career around raising the reputation of printmaking beyond simply a means of reproduction.
These prints represent an important transitional era in Conner's life as a person and an artist—in 1967 he proclaimed he was “retiring” from the art world and soon after the Tamarind fellowship, he shifted his focus to his dense, obsessive “all-over” and mandala drawings and prints along with his films. The errant attitude with which Conner approached mediums, styles and propriety throughout his long career is encapsulated in these works from his time at Tamarind.