chicago

Mel Bochner

Rhona Hoffman Gallery

“Words in art are words. Letters in art are letters. Writing in art is writing.” These sentences by Ad Reinhardt commence his “Art-as-Art Dogma, Part III” (1965) and describe well the mocking fatalism ingrained in Mel Bochner’s Blah paintings, a body of work he has been making since 2000. In the works, all titled Blah, Blah, Blah, the artist selects, significantly, a nonword as his sole figure. Blah is a word that is not interested in words. It is a proxy word more associated with speech. And in the works on display here—all from 2009, and featuring guileless rounded letters rendered with thick cakes of oil on black velvet—Bochner exploits blah’s curious meaninglessness to undertake a complex tongue-in-cheek unmooring of painting. He calls attention to the many significances that can arise from the medium’s material signifiers (oil paint and the black velvet support), its technical parameters

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