Mel Bochner

Mel Bochner was born in Pittsburgh in 1940. An American conceptual artist whose paintings combine geometric shapes with bold colour and text, his wide ranging career made fundamental contributions to the forms and strategies of gallery exhibition. He received early recognition when he studied under the legendary Joseph Fitzpatrick, a teacher whose students also included Philip Pearlstein and Andy Warhol. Graduating from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1962 with a BFA in fine arts, Bochner left Pittsburgh to study Philosophy at Northwestern University and subsequently moved to New York.

Bochner was invited by the renowned art critic Dore Ashton to teach art history at the New York School of Visual Arts. In 1966 he was asked, as a member of art history faculty, to curate an exhibition. Gathering together drawings from his friends, who included Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, John Cage and Donald Judd, he explained to each of them that they did not need to offer ‘art’ per se. The school, dissatisfied with Bochner simply procuring drawings, refused to spend money framing the submissions. So Bochner photocopied four sets of the 100 drawings, reduced them down to standard paper size, inserted these four sets into four ring-binders and placed each binder on a simple white pedestal. He called the piece Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art. This moment is seen today as a turning point in the evolution of conceptual art.

During the 1960s Bochner created several new exhibition strategies – using gallery walls as the primary subject; making the photographic record of a performance piece into an exhibit itself, thus creating ‘not so much a sculpture as a two-dimensional work about a sculpture’. By the 1970s Bochner had begun to make paintings which tended to combine text, shape and bold colour. Bochner’s 1998 work Event Horizon consists of a series of coloured canvases hung contiguously, each canvas depicting a horizontal line with a single number recording the width of canvas in inches. In 2005 Bochner was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University. He still lives and works in New York City.

Mel Bochner It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This