A Note from the Editor-in-Chief
I feel as though I grew up with Mel Bochner as part of my art education in NYC in the late 70’s. Bochner’s work reached across the vast spectrum of young artists at the time. I remember that he kept and keeps both old school conceptualists and painters happy in perhaps the same ways.
I thank Mel for this issue as well as the writers and our wonderful editor.
I am so pleased that this issue has come to fruition and that the work of a living artist is of so much interest to so many people.
all my best,
By Philip Auslander
Mel Bochner, Actual Size (Hand), 1968
This issue represents a first for TAS--although we have done thematic issues in the past, this is our first number devoted entirely to the work of a single artist.
The artist in question is Mel Bochner (b. 1940), a major figure in the development of American conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s. His work of the 1960s focused on language in at least two senses. On one hand, he produced works using words as his materials. On the other, he made works that deconstructed the representational conventions underlying the languages of visual art, including perspectival space and the relationship between the object depicted and the various ways it may be represented (i.e., in words, photographs, measurements, etc.). He extended this analysis to the circumstances under which art is exhibited, including the space of the gallery. As the contributors to this issue note, Bochner frequently used non-art materials, such as tape, plain brown paper, note cards, coins, or hazelnuts in these pursuits.
In the later 1970s, Bochner "returned" to painting (though, as Robert Stalker points out below, his work arguably has always been about painting) with colorful works that brought his interest in measurement and linearity to geometric abstractions. In the last 20 years, Bochner has continued to pursue all of the interests reflected in his work in paintings and drawings that frequently take words as their subjects. These sometimes further the inquiry into color that first became apparent in his work of the later 1970s, and sometimes partake of a more expressionistic style than his earlier work.
Our first contributor is the distinguished art historian James Meyer, who graciously allowed us to republish a catalog essay from the mid-1990s in which he discusses Bochner's Measurement Series. Meyer draws our attention to Bochner's relationship not only to conceptual art but also to minimalism and suggests some connections between Bochner and his contemporaries.
In a discussion inspired by his reading of two recent additions to the Bochner bibliography, Michael Klein sets the scene in more personal terms by describing the social and intellectual world of New York's Soho in the 1970s and offers an appreciation both of Bochner's commitment to a rigorous art practice and his sense of humor.
Finally, Robert Stalker brings to light a relatively little-known work of Bochner's, New York Windows, the 1966 film he made in collaboration with the painter Robert Moskowitz. Stalker argues for seeing Bochner's interest in the relationship between pictorial and cinematic space as a bridge between his earlier conceptual work and his later paintings
We are very pleased to present a selection of Mel Bochner's work provided to us by the artist himself. We are grateful for his participation. For more information on his work, please visit his website at www.melbochner.net