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Mel Bochner

Language Is Not Transparent
September 7 – November 10, 2017
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Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present Mel Bochner’s first solo show with the gallery and his first exhibition in Brussels for more than 20 years. For this show, Bochner will debut Language Is Not Transparent [Brussels, 2017], a wall piece taking its name from one of the artist’s most seminal works first shown at the Dwan Gallery in 1970. Bochner intends for this new iteration to premiere within Belgium’s bilingual context: translated into Flemish and French for the first time, this version adds new interpretations and layers of complexity to Bochner’s Conceptualist practice.

A leading figure of the Conceptual art movement 0f the 1960s and 1970s, Bochner reimagined the wall as a material component, rather than simply a passive surface. Language Is Not Transparent [Brussels, 2017] consists of three black rectangles painted directly onto the wall, reappropriating the Renaissance fresco technique of sinopia. In his decision to work directly on the wall, the artist’s hand is clearly visible, via handwritten text in English, French and Flemish, scribbles of white chalk and uneven brushstrokes leaving drops of black paint that almost hit the floor. Bochner’s immediate and tangible intervention, without mediation of a canvas or frame, fundamentally changed the relationship between art, public space and the viewer. Language also plays a major role in Bochner’s overall artistic practice, and this new version of Language Is Not Transparent exemplifies his idea, as borrowed from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and others, that language is understood through a variety of cultural associations and contexts, without one definable interpretation.

Various iterations of Language Is Not Transparent have been shown globally in some of the world’s most prestigious museums and institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 2017; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 2016; Villa Arson, Nice, 2010; the Art Institute of Chicago, 2006; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1995. Bochner’s first version of Language Is Not Transparent, which is included in LACMA’s permanent collection, is currently on view at LACMA through September 10, in “Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971”, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Mel Bochner was born in Pittsburgh in 1940, and currently lives and works in New York. He earned a BFA in 1962 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Bochner’s work is represented in some of the most renowned institutions and public collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Tate Modern (London) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York). Recent solo museum exhibitions include The Jewish Museum (New York, 2014), Museù Serralves (Porto, 2013), Haus der Kunst in Munich (Munich, 2012), National Gallery of Art (Washington, 2011), Art Institute of Chicago (2006) and Musée d'art moderne et contemporain (Geneva, 2003).