The Jewish Museum in New York to Open MEL BOCHNER: STRONG LANGUAGE, 5/2
Bochner's interest in language and translation, as seen in his "Wittgenstein" paintings (1997-2001), extends to the Yiddishisms that pepper the text of several of his Thesauruspaintings. In Kvetch, Kvetch, Kvetch (2010) the word becomes an onomatopoetic expression of itself. This work may be seen as an analogue to his series titled Blah, Blah, Blah (2008-2012) which offers the repetition of that single word as a vehicle for alienated thought.
The final gallery of the exhibition features two paintings in which words have vanished and only punctuation and "leetspeak," a way of writing on the internet where letters are replaced by numbers or other symbols, remain. Colon Open Parenthesis (2011) is a hand-painted emoticon, a typed symbol of the frowny face common in text messaging, often used when words fail. Dollar Hash Exclamation Plus (2011) uses these symbols both to represent swearing and to spell out an expletive that can pass a web-based censor: $#!+. Also on view is a suite of paintings, And/If/Or/But (2006), in which these prepositions and conjunctions appear in iridescent paint that changes color as the viewer moves past them. As always, Bochner explores a wide array of meaning from the unintelligible to the hopeless, from despair to discomfort, from indifference to protest.
Mel Bochner: Strong Language is organized by Norman L. Kleeblatt, Susan & Elihu Rose Chief Curator of The Jewish Museum. The exhibition design is by Smithsonian - Cooper Hewitt National Design Award winners, Tsao & McKown Architects.
In conjunction with the exhibition, The Jewish Museum and Yale University Press are co-publishing a 144-page catalogue by Norman L. Kleeblatt with a text by Mel Bochner. Mr. Kleeblatt discusses the evolution of Bochner's art from his early word experiments through his return to painting, while Bochner offers a personal perspective. Both Kleeblatt and Bochner address the question of Jewishness in Bochner's work, particularly the ways in which Jewish intellectual tradition embraces language as a visual expressive form. Featuring 101 color and 11 black and white illustrations, the book will be available worldwide and at The Jewish Museum's Cooper Shop for $45.00.
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