For some 50 years, Mel Bochner has explored the intersections of linguistic and visual representation. As a leading figure of conceptual and post-minimal art movements during the 1960s, Bochner experimented in complicating the interface between reading and seeing. Emerging at a time when painting was increasingly discussed as outmoded, Bochner became part of a generation of artists, including Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Robert Smithson, who were looking at ways of breaking with abstract expressionism and traditional compositional devices.
Investigating philosophical and mathematical theories, Bochner examined the conventions, codes, and grammars we routinely use to grasp the external world, playing with cognitive strategies of counting, measuring, and ordering, using rationalising systems such as numbers, measurements and definitions to explore the irrational nature of being.
Perhaps none is more astute at illustrating the assumptions and limits of language than the iconic “Blah, blah, blah”, the seductive physical abstraction of the paintings matched by the humorous emphasis of a repeated, improvisational refrain that insinuates talking nonsense, or allusion to something so familiar it requires no articulation.