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Mel Bochner: New Works    Feb 6 - Mar 20, 2010


Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to announce an exhibition by Mel Bochner.

One of the preeminent figures in the history of conceptual art, Mel Bochner has used verbal, mathematical and geometric systems to influence the content of his work since the mid-1960's. His "thesaurus paintings," which debuted at the Whitney Biennial in 2004, are characterized by experimentation and commentary on language. Each begins with an initial word followed by an array of synonyms ranging from the tame to the perversely slang. The eight paintings in this exhibition vibrate with exuberant, changing colors that interrupt the reading of the text. The viewer's mind goes back and forth between reading the content of the texts and experiencing them as formal compositions of color and shape.

The following is the artist's statement on his thesaurus paintings:

The tone of these paintings has something to do with the evolution of language in contemporary public discourse, from the polite and respectful to the nasty and insulting. There is an implicit narrative in that downward spiral that these paintings attempt to track. Each painting begins with the more formal words and then devolves into words and phrases that refer to the body and its functions, from the prim and proper to the crude and vulgar. To me it's related to the philosopher Alain Badiou's observation that "in the world there are only languages and bodies".

I'm often asked if these paintings are meant to be funny. Am I trying to be funny? That question always reminds me of the following exchange in Martin Scorcese's film "Goodfellas" between Henry, played by Ray Liotta, and Tommy, played by Joe Pesci:

Henry: You're really funny.

Tommy: What do you mean funny? You mean funny " ha ha"? You mean funny the way I talk? What?

Henry: It's just… you know. You're just funny.

Tommy: Funny how? What's funny about it? Tell me how I'm funny? Funny like a clown? I amuse you? I'm here to fucking amuse you? What do you mean, funny? How am I funny?

Henry: You know, how you tell a story.

Tommy: No, I don't know. You said it. You said I'm funny. How am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me what's funny.

Henry: Get the fuck out of here, Tommy.

Tommy: Motherfucker! I almost had you there.

Mel Bochner (born 1940) received his BFA from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1962 and received an honory doctor of fine arts in 2005. He has exhibited throughout the United States and Europe and his work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. He currently lives in New York City and is a professor at Yale University.

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