Anne Thompson reports in ArtForum that text-loving Mel Bochner has begun making paintings with a hydraulic press, a new process that further complicates his career-long consideration of language. “In the 1970s Bochner declared ‘Language is not transparent.’ Now, formally, that�s literal. On black velvet grounds, the press imprints letters in thick, multicolored oils for a Thiebaud-icing-meets-Richter-squeegee effect. The letters� edges stay crisp but bleed into the velvet, creating a tie-dye-like atmosphere that emphasizes the juicy physicality of the text.
“This exhibition is divided between his ‘Thesaurus’ paintings, which list synonyms devolving into obscenity (COMPLAIN becomes THROW A SHIT FIT), and paintings that repeat the phrase BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. This is familiar Bochner territory, but the printing technique ups the impact. The dense paint and tacky-sumptuous velvet somehow embody the weight of the press with a strange intensity; earlier works in a careful sign-painter�s hand seem reserved by comparison. Paradoxically, the removal of the hand makes the work more confrontational.
“These paintings shout from the walls, and the installation suggests an argument��’Thesaurus’ paintings on one side, ‘Blah’ on the other. A Jenny Holzer�esque horizontal streams BLAH, BLAH, BLAH while the painting across demands first SILENCE! and finally JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP! Bochner has claimed that any voice here is ambiguous: It could be the paintings, the artist, or the viewer�s thoughts. This show reveals something personal, a bipolar smackdown between the cool Conceptualist and a wound-up Bochner on a rant. There�s no doubt about the winner.”
“Mel Bochner,” Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris, France. Through July 31, 2010.