new-york

View of “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” 2014. From left: Blah, Blah, Blah, 2008; Silence!, 2011; Voiceover, 2006/2012; No, 2007.

Mel Bochner

The Jewish Museum

View of “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” 2014. From left: Blah, Blah, Blah, 2008; Silence!, 2011; Voiceover, 2006/2012; No, 2007.

CONCISELY, SUCCINCTLY, PITHILY,Mel Bochner: Strong Language” opened with two works, both titled Self/Portrait—the first, from 1966, ink on graph paper; the second, from 2013, oil on canvas. In each, the words SELF and PORTRAIT sat atop parallel columns of synonyms, with EGO beside PORTRAYAL, ONESELF beside HEAD, and so on, a sequence that yielded nonsensical yet evocative phrases such as ONENESS DELINEATION and SPIRIT MIRROR. The painting’s proportions were somewhat longer and its word lists a tad shorter, but the works’ correspondence was unmistakable, as was the curatorial conceit. “Strong Language” straddled two disparate bodies of Bochner’s work: his pen-on-paper notations and magazine pieces from the late 1960s and his more recent paintings of words filched from Roget’s Thesaurus. Like the freshness seal on a juice bottle, the Self/Portrait pairing offered quality

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