If the Colour Changes

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Master of the Universe © Courtesy Peter Freeman, Inc.
If the Colour Changes

77-82 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
United Kingdom
October 12th, 2012 - December 30th, 2012
Opening: October 12th, 2012 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM

44 020 75227888
Tuesday - Sunday 11am - 6pm/ Thursday 11am-9pm/ Mon closed
works on paper, installation, conceptual
Galleries 1, 8 & 9. Admission free


One of the founding figures of conceptual art, and one of its most astute critics, Mel Bochner combines colour and language in his work.

The exhibition traces his work over the last 50 years, from the 1960s and 70s and his early installations, wall drawings and works on paper, to his most recent series of exuberant paintings using a thesaurus to generate word chains full of wit and humour. 

This is the first major European survey show of the US artist.

Descending from phrases such as ‘top dog’ and ‘king of the hill’ into macho mantras such as ‘rule with an iron hand’, the latest paintings of American artist Mel Bochner (b. 1940) use a thesaurus to generate word chains that are both mordantly funny and bursting with colour.

Bochner shares with other artists who emerged in the 1960s, including Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse and Robert Smithson, an interest in using rationalising systems - numbers, measurements, definitions - to explore the irrational and provisional nature of being.

Tracing nearly 50 years of work, this exhibition commences with Blah, Blah, Blah (2011) a huge painting that encapsulates Bochner’s ongoing fascination with language and with colour. Across the floor, blue squares are spray-painted onto newspapers in a fusion of geometric abstraction with current affairs. Giant crumpled photographs in lurid colours, described by the New Yorker as ‘like road maps found stuffed in the glove compartment’, hang around the walls.

In a reprise of Marcel Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending a Staircase, a scattering of 48 inch lines occupies the Gallery staircase. At the top No Thought Exists Without A Sustaining Support (1970), is chalked onto a blackboard that appears to drip down the wall. Exuberant planes of colour leap across the walls of Gallery 9 with Two Planar Arcs (1977) and a sculpture made in vividly chromatic chunks of raw glass.

Gallery 8 is devoted to the vast Event Horizon (1998) and ‘Thesaurus’ paintings, including Amazing! (2011) featuring exclamations from ‘awesome!’ and ‘groovy!’ to ‘gnarly!’ and ‘omg!’, whose letters and words advance or recede according to the shade. Bochner takes us on a cerebral, optical and physical journey.

Find Out More: See the fully-illustrated catalogue with essays by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Briony Fer, João Fernandes, Mark Godfrey and Ulrich Wilmes. £19.95.

Organised in collaboration with Haus der Kunst, Munich and Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto.

Supported by: Suzanne F. Cohen, Jill & Peter Kraus.