Biography of Mel Bochner
One of the champions of Conceptual Art, Mel Bochner pioneered techniques now considered self-evident by conceptual and installation artists. For nearly 50 years he has investigated the intersections of linguistic and visual representation, provoking the viewer not only to look but also to think on seeing his work. The mid-1960s marked Bochner's radical departure from the art establishment when he began using geometric and verbal systems to influence the content of his work. Born in 1940, Bochner was one of the first to prioritize art as a procedure, stepping away from the notion of art having to be something tangible.
In 1966 Mel Bochner organized what is now considered to be the first Conceptual Art exhibition. While he was teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Bochner's show entitled Working Drawings And Other Visible Things On Paper Not Necessarily Meant To Be Viewed As Art was the first time the concept of the presentation became the most significant aspect of the work itself. It was a defining moment, but by the late 60s Bochner had already moved on to focus on organized systems of thought such as language and mathematics.
In his work Measurement Room Mel Bochner allowed the gallery space itself to become the artwork. Although essentially meaningless the measurements were rational and objective like a system of knowledge. What was distinctive about this work was the manner in which the world had been made into a kind of palatable essence, understood by human reason while at the same time revealing pure nothingness.
Continuing to use gallery locations for his work, Mel Bochner made drawings that followed specific systems adhering to the measurements of the exhibition space. From the early 80s Bochner began focusing on painting and prints featuring words and phrases that used both colorful language as well as colorful tones. Exploring the conventions and grammar of common everyday vocabulary Bochner's work on Yiddish is highly regarded. In 1985 the Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery honored the artist with a major exhibition entitled Mel Bochner: 1975-1985 and in 1995 The Yale University Art Gallery dedicated a further retrospective to Mel Bochner with the title Thought Made Visible 1966-1973.