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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

2 Comments

  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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