Bochner’s black velvet paintings in Paris

Mel Bochner, “Complain,” 2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm
Mel Bochner, “Blah, Blah, Blah,”2008, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 114.3 cm

Mel Bochner, “No,”2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm

Mel Bochner, “Scoundrel,”2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm
Mel Bochner, “Blah, Blah, Blah,” 2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 238.8 x 4.4 cm

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. 

Related posts:
Back in the Day: Mel Bochner and Marcelo Bonevardi 
Barry Schwabsky on words


  1. Would love to see these in the flesh, so to speak! From your description they sound very physical, and tactile!

  2. They look like Sean Landers doing stencils a la Jasper Johns. It's hard to see much of Bochner in there. But that's probably some kind of Conceptualist irony.

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