A leading figure in the development of Conceptual Art, Mel Bochner (b. 1940) is known for works that challenge traditional notions of painting and language. Bochner studied painting at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh where he received his B.F.A. in 1962. Two years later he moved to New York where he and a generation of like-minded artists of the conceptual movement questioned conventional methods of making art.
Interested in philosophy and the relationship between thinking and perceiving, Bochner has explored the use of language and number systems in visual art throughout his career. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bochner created a series of word portraits as well as installations of line drawings that turned exhibit spaces into large-scale diagrams. He then made a series of irregularly-shaped paintings in the 1980s that considered the relation between the hand, mind, and eye. In the 1990s and 2000s, he continued his exploration of language and numbers in word paintings and geometric works. For example, his “thesaurus paintings” of the 2000s set a series of related words against a background of bright colors. In 1979, Bochner was appointed senior critic in painting/printmaking at Yale University, and in 2001 he became an adjunct professor there. Today, he continues to live and work in New York.
Although Bochner has only made a handful of books, the few that he has created are important works. For his 1966 exhibition Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed as Art, Bochner compiled sketches from artists such as Donald Judd, John Cage, Sol LeWitt, and others into four identical photocopied books. Harvard University art historian Benjamin Buchloh subsequently called this work “probably the first truly conceptual exhibition.” Another noteworthy book by Bochner is Misunderstandings (A Theory of Photography) (1970). This book was his contribution to the collaborative set of artists’ books Artists & Photographs. For On Certainty (1991), Bochner illustrated the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher whose writings influenced his artwork.
Mel Bochner’s art is found in many collections including those of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, and more. In 2014, his text-based works were the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York.
Books with Mel Bochner available from Boreas Fine Art:
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