New York

Mel Bochner

112 Greene Street Gallery

Mel Bochner is dedicated to precision and cleanness, preoccupations which have led to the utilization of set theory, mathematics and linguistic structure as the brute matter of his art. In his present environment, a theoretical demonstration of a representative Soho space, Bochner has loosened his vocabulary by taking certain liberties, the broadest perhaps being that the working module—the distance between the centers of two parallel structural columns, 11’10“—is established as an act of free choice The axiomatic decision is marked upon the floor in white tape and it is then presented in the permuted forms possible to Bochner’s theory of measurement: ”derived, compared, reversed, extended, halved, dispersed, partitioned, bent, deflected, non-referred.“ What happens is that space is verified, rather than experienced, through a set of concepts which only in an oblique sense ”measure“ the existential model—namely the room in which all this takes place—a tautological mindbender if ever there was one. The possibilities of the theory of measurement granted, certain moves still appear eccentric, such as when the module, henceforth marked in black tape, shifts direction across the wall onto the ceiling. Or, one sees as well that the set dispersal requires that all surfaces receive some measured presentation—the floor, all walls, the ceiling, the columns, and even the whitewashed windows of the galIery. Perhaps the most arresting usage of the theory occurs in those instances when a degree of taste is brought into question even though the rigid systematization tends to discount such ”bourgeois revisionism.“ In this connection my favorite passage, if one can speak of favorite within such a reductive mode, occurs on the wall upon which the module has been broken into successive individuated lengths. One foot begins the perusal; two feet is set diagonally; three feet hangs down from the ceiling; four, five and six feet are presented as a perpendicular notation; seven, eight and nine, as a step pattern high on the wall; ten and eleven, as a still higher horizontal; and ten inches as a kind of base postscript. Bochner’s preoccupation with exactness has released him from the need to produce a quantifiable object; he would have it that it is the situation in which the object is placed which is quantifiably wanting. Or, as the artist notes in an unpublished, incomplete manuscript, ”a method which would outline the experience of the space with the least possible intrusion on the space of the experience." Oddly one does not only end up with the measurements of the space. What is most interesting about Bochner’s room occurs in the transposition of a feeling which, if felt at all, is usually experienced while moving through architecture, particularly Italian 15th-century architecture; by which I mean that if you are the kind of person who is capable of experiencing a sequence of spare chambers as a viable esthetic experience, then in all probability you have the essential qualifications for surmounting the rigid conceptualizations of which Bochner has proved himself the master in the past two years.

Robert Pincus-Witten