‘I’m Always Thinking of You,’ greeting card by Bruce Conner, c. 1957 (via Dust-to-Digital)
Dust-to-Digital, the excellent reissue label behind last year’s Music of Morocco: Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959, has reprinted this greeting card drawn by Bruce Conner some 60 years ago. It costs $5.
Like Harry Smith, Conner was employed by a bohemian greeting card company called Inkweed Studios (later The Haunted Inkbottle) during the ‘50s. Lionel and Joanne Ziprin—he a poet and Kabbalist, she a dancer, illustrator, and model—were its founders. The notes from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller’s 2011 exhibition of material from the Inkweed archives are full of fascinating details about the Ziprins, the artists they worked with, and the businesses they ran. While they do not seem to have made much of a dent in Hallmark’s monopoly, they gave Bruce Conner and other artists the greatest gift of all: cash.
Inkweed offered itself as a launching pad for a handful of equally ambitious and talented artists, several of whom found their first paying commercial jobs with the company. These include polymath artists Harry Smith and Jordan Belson, painter and filmmaker Bruce Conner, and illustrators Barbara Remington and William Mohr. Smith’s instantly recognizable geometric designs were used for a series of hand screened Christmas cards, which echoed the artist’s famed series of drawings and collotypes inspired by Kabbalistic themes. Their most prodigious collaborator, however, was Conner, who met the Ziprins on a visit to New York in 1951. While studying art at Wichita University and the University of Nebraska, Conner regularly sent The Ziprins card concepts, alongside completed linoleum cuts and meticulous printing instructions. Conner’s work for the Ziprins—inspired by the two-dimensional, alien forms of painter Paul Klee and the absurdum ad infinitum ethos of Dada and Beat—infused Inkweed with a heavy dose of subversive wit and black humor. Conner’s vision inspired the Ziprins to take greater risk in their own designs, expanding the parameters of what the company could and would soon become.
Below is Conner’s video for “Mea Culpa” from Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.