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Bombhead Website

January 28, 2022 – March 27, 2022


Artist Multiple Artists

Organized by Vancouver Art Gallery


Bruce Conner, Bombhead, Pigment on RC photo paper, acrylic, 1989/2002, Private Collection

©2021 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SOCAN, Montreal

BOMBHEAD Exhibition Tours Available

Available every Friday at noon through the exhibition. $5 per person.

Pre-registration is required, please click here.

BOMBHEAD Curator Tour

Join us on Thursday, March 3, at 6pm for an insightful tour of our current exhibition, BOMBHEAD, lead by curator John O’Brian.

Pre-registration is required, please click here.


BOMBHEAD is a thematic exhibition organized by guest curator John O’Brian and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery. It explores the emergence and impact of the nuclear age as represented by artists and their art. Encompassing the pre- and post-war period from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, the exhibition brings together paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photographs, film, video and ephemera that deal with this subject matter strongly associated with obliteration and destruction. 

In the mid-1980s reports of American nuclear powered and nuclear armed submarines visiting Nanoose Bay sparked widespread protests in the community, and in 1987 the City declared Nanaimo a Nuclear Free Zone. There have been fewer disarmament protests in Nanaimo since the end of the Cold War, but the themes explored in BOMBHEAD continue to be relevant in this region and around the world. Exploring the profound impact of nuclear technologies, BOMBHEAD is the final exhibition in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks What is Progress?

Content Warning: This exhibition contains graphic depictions of war and suggestions of sexualized violence. 

Photography: Sean Fenzl

Artists: Carl Beam, Henry Busse, Blaine Campbell, Bruce Conner, Gregory Coyes and John O’Brian, Robert Del Tredici, Harold Edgerton, Robert Filliou, Richard Finnie, Betty Goodwin, Adolph Gottlieb, David Hockney, Robert Keziere, Bob Light and John Houston, Ishiuchi Miyako, Carel Moiseiwitsch, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Mark Ruwedel, John Scott, Erin Siddall, Nancy Spero, Barbara Todd and Yosuke Yamahata.  

This exhibition is part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Across the Province touring program.

Thank you to BOMBHEAD Curator John O’Brian for sharing your insight during a talk at Nanaimo Art Gallery in February, 2022.

John’s O’Brian Curator’s Talk

View the Curator’s Talk from John O’Brian by clicking on the video or here.

John O’Brian is an art historian, writer and curator. He has organized exhibitions on photography and the nuclear era—The Nuclear Machine (Copenhagen, 2016), Camera Atomica (Toronto, 2015), After the Flash (London, 2014), Strangelove’s Weegee (Vancouver, 2013)—and published twenty books, including Ruthless Hedonism: The American Reception of Matisse and David Milne and the Modern Tradition of Painting as well as Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, which he edited. He lives in Vancouver and is professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia.



Nanaimo Art Gallery is situated in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nations, and we are grateful to operate on Snuneymuxw territory.



Nanaimo Art Gallery is situated in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nations, and we are grateful to operate on Snuneymuxw territory.