The Rat Bastard Protective Association: Bruce Conner and His San Francisco Cohort, 1958-68


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


The Ph.D. Program in Art History


This dissertation is a theoretical and historical account of the art-making activities of the Rat Bastard Protective Association, a small, close-knit community in mid-century San Francisco that included Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, and Manuel Neri. This project studies the political, social, and aesthetic concerns in their assemblage works. Use of the term assemblage is also investigated, as it marks a specific spirit of the 1950s and '60s. Considered materially-based when Conceptual art sought to dematerialize the art object in the 1970s, the term was eclipsed by more lasting stylistic categorizations. This study acknowledges a performative dimension in assemblage, thereby casting new light on the trajectory of process-based practices in art since the 1950s.