Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes

12 October-30 December 2012, Galleries 1, 8 & 9

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Descending from phrases such as ‘top dog’ and ‘king of the hill’ into macho mantras such as ‘rule with an iron hand’, the latest paintings of American artist Mel Bochner (b. 1940) use a thesaurus to generate word chains that are both mordantly funny and bursting with colour.

Bochner shares with other artists who emerged in the 1960s, including Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse and Robert Smithson, an interest in using rationalising systems - numbers, measurements, definitions - to explore the irrational and provisional nature of being.

Tracing nearly 50 years of work, this exhibition commences with Blah, Blah, Blah (2011) a huge painting that encapsulates Bochner’s ongoing fascination with language and with colour. Across the floor, blue squares are spray-painted onto newspapers in a fusion of geometric abstraction with current affairs. Giant crumpled photographs in lurid colours, described by the New Yorker as ‘like road maps found stuffed in the glove compartment’, hang around the walls.

In a reprise of Marcel Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending a Staircase, a scattering of 48 inch lines occupies the Gallery staircase. At the top No Thought Exists Without A Sustaining Support (1970), is chalked onto a blackboard that appears to drip down the wall. Exuberant planes of colour leap across the walls of Gallery 9 with Two Planar Arcs (1977) and a sculpture made in vividly chromatic chunks of raw glass.

Gallery 8 is devoted to the vast Event Horizon (1998) and ‘Thesaurus’ paintings, including Amazing! (2011) featuring exclamations from ‘awesome!’ and ‘groovy!’ to ‘gnarly!’ and ‘omg!’, whose letters and words advance or recede according to the shade. Bochner takes us on a cerebral, optical and physical journey.

Read more about the exhibition (pdf)

Click here to buy a copy of the Mel Bochner catalogue

Admission free

Find Out More: See the fully-illustrated catalogue with essays by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Briony Fer, João Fernandes, Mark Godfrey and Ulrich Wilmes. £19.95.

Mel Bochner Events Programme

9 Oct In Conversation: Mel Bochner and Achim Borchardt-Hume
7 Nov Audio Description Workshop: Mel Bochner
8 Nov Gallery Talk: Achim Borchardt-Hume on Mel Bochner
16 Nov Discussion: Banging Your Head Against the Wall
11 Nov Film: Madness! Sex! Failure! Death! Painters in Film
9 Dec Film: Madness! Sex! Failure! Death! Painters in Film
27 Oct Family Day: Draw, Make, Do Art
30 & 31 Oct Children’s Art Courses: Turning Words into Art
1 & 2 Nov Children’s Art Courses: Turning Words into Art
23 & 25 Oct Schools Workshops: Mel Bochner
6 & 8 Nov Schools Workshops: Mel Bochner
25 Oct Education Open Evening
17 Nov Festival: Art, Music and Other Visible Things

Organised in collaboration with Haus der Kunst, Munich and Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto.

Supported by: Suzanne F. Cohen, Jill & Peter Kraus.

Image: Mel Bochner, Master of the Universe. Courtesy Peter Freeman, Inc.