Mel Bochner

Blah, Blah, Blah, 2023
oil on velvet, 45 x 46 inches [114.3 x 116.8 cm], unique

Mel Bochner is recognized as one of the pioneers in the development of Conceptual Art, leading the introduction of language into visual art in work that has spanned painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, and installation. Bochner has consistently probed the conventions of both visual art and language, revealing unspoken codes that underpin our engagement with each.

Bochner received his BFA from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh in 1962. Shortly after moving to New York City in 1964, he became involved in two of the major movements of the period—Minimal Art, which was already being developed by artists such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt, and Conceptual Art, a then-nascent movement of which Bochner would become a key figure. In 1966 he organized the exhibition Working Drawings And Other Visible Things On Paper Not Necessarily Meant To Be Viewed As Art at the School of Visual Arts, New York—a show that is now considered to be one of the first Conceptual Art exhibitions. The same year Bochner began making photo works, including his important 36 Photographs and 12 Diagrams, which was exhibited at Dwan Gallery, New York, in 1967. In 1969 the artist created his now-famous Measurement Room at Galerie Heiner Friedrich in Munich, Germany.

Howl, 2022
oil on velvet, 32 x 18 7/8 inches [81.3 x 47.9 cm], unique

Using a variety of techniques, recent paintings have collected sets of related words and phrases, bringing together text from high culture and low. Bochner’s Thesaurus paintings transform loaded or banal words into graphic arrangements, blurring the lines between looking and reading and leaving viewers to bring their own associations.

Blah Blah Blah, 2022
oil on velvet, 68-1/2 x 48 inches (overall) [174 x 121.9 cm]

Bochner’s first exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery, Photographs and Not Photographs 1966-2010, presented Bochner’s ground-breaking photographs from that period, highlighting the influence of these works on other aspects of his practice. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue published by Fraenkel Gallery, which Bochner helped design. 

Obliterate, 2018
silkscreen in 12 colors, 50 x 40 inches (sheet) [127 x 101.6 cm], edition of 30

As both an artist and critic, Bochner has served as an interpreter and interlocutor for many other artists of his generation. His early writings, including Art in Process—Structures (Arts Magazine, 1966), Serial Art Systems: Solipsism (Arts Magazine, 1967), and The Serial Attitude (Artforum, 1967), all attempted to elucidate some of the fundamental ideas at work in minimalism and early conceptualism. Major exhibitions of Bochner’s work include Mel Bochner: Thought Made Visible 1966–1973 at the Yale University Art Gallery in 1995; Mel Bochner: Photographs 1966–1969 at the Harvard University Art Museums in 2002; Mel Bochner: Language 1966–2006 at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006; Mel Bochner: Strong Language at the Jewish Museum in 2014; Mel Bochner, Measurement Room: No Vantage Point at the Dia Art Foundation in 2019; and Mel Bochner Drawings: A Retrospective, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2022.

I Forget, 2014
etching with acquatint, 22-1/4 x 30-1/4 inches (sheet) [56.5 x 76.8cm], edition of 20