In 1978, Conner, long a figure in the avant-garde and bohemian subcultures that burgeoned in the San Francisco Bay Area, documented the nascent California punk scene that rallied around the area club Mabuhay Gardens. His strong ties to the growing punk movement of the time allowed him to photograph the tight-knit group of bands, fans, and other personalities from the vantage point of an insider, capturing the raucous behavior and exuberant performances that spilled off the stage nightly. Frank and humorous, these images frame the comings and goings of the regulars of the club, such as Toni Basil, Devo, and Negative Trend, in tightly composed shots whose seemingly easy feel belie their visual complexity. The images of flying guitars, rioting fans, and the camaraderie built during late hours in smoky barrooms avoid now-nostalgic overtones through Connerâ€™s formal mastery and anarchic touch. Though a selection were first published in Search and Destroy, the famed punk â€˜zine, Conner organized the 53 photographs into two series which will be shown together for the first time.
LUKE, a new film by Conner that premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2004, will be screened at the gallery throughout the exhibition. The film recounts one day during the production of the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. Invited to visit the set by his friend Dennis Hopper, Connerâ€™s film captures the events occurring on both sides of the camera. Though the focus of the dayâ€™s shoot is a posse of shirtless actors shoveling gravel, including Paul Newman, George Kennedy, and Hopper, Connerâ€™s behind-the-scenes view emphasizes the filming as much as what is being filmed. As the crew mills about, dragging various equipment back and forth, the production of the film becomes a parade. Teasing out the relationship between still photography and motion picture, Conner has slowed the film speed during transfer from 8mm to digital video, creating images that are alternately staccato and attenuated. This poetic film, which meditates on both the formal features of film as well as its cultural role, features an original score both composed and performed by Patrick Gleeson.