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“Mel Bochner: Strong Language”

A good deal of attention has been paid in the past decade to the work of Mel Bochner, with exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and London’s Whitechapel Gallery, among other venues. Yet in New York, Bochner’s home for close to fifty years, the artist has, bizarrely, never received a museum survey. This welcome exhibition, though not the full-scale retrospective Bochner so richly deserves, will include more than seventy works—paintings, drawings, and prints from 1966 to the present—in which Bochner deploys lists of words, in many cases groups of synonyms extracted from Roget’s Thesaurus and reconfigured in columns and rows. The words become texts, always ironic, often dark. Yet with time, reading gives way to a scrutiny of pictorial concerns: problems of mark-making, facture, and color that, for all Bochner’s so-called Conceptualism, have almost always grounded his work.

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