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focus: Mel Bochner—Language 1966–2006

October 5, 2006–January 7, 2007
Galleries 138-139

A leading practitioner of conceptual art, Mel Bochner was one of the first artists in the 1960s to introduce language into the visual field. These efforts, however, remain surprisingly undocumented. Focus: Mel Bochner—Language 1966–2006 brings together for the first time more than 50 works on paper, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations to present an overview of the artist’s language-based works.

Highlights include the rarely seen landmark Working drawings and other visible things on paper not necessarily meant to be viewed as art (1966), which art historian Benjamin Buchloh has called “the first conceptual art installation.” Also featured are a number of early “word portraits”—pen-and-ink drawings that incorporate words culled from a thesaurus and used to describe artists such as Dan Flavin and Eva Hesse and their work—and recent multicolored canvases with texts drawn from the writings of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and Roget’s Thesaurus.

Coinciding with the Art Institute exhibition, The Joys of Yiddish (2006) has been commissioned by the Spertus Museum on Michigan Avenue as the final installment of Language Barrier—a series of site-specific artworks on the 50-foot barricade of the construction site for the new Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies facility.


The accompanying catalogue and academic symposium are generously funded by the Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lannan Foundation, and Nathan and Suzanne Cohen Foundation, Inc.

Exhibition catalogue: Mel Bochner: Language 1966–2006.


This exhibition is made possible by a gift from Judith Racht and Irving Stenn, Jr., with additional funding and support provided by Judith Neisser. Ongoing support for focus exhibitions is provided by The Alfred L. McDougal and Nancy Lauter McDougal Fund for Contemporary Art.

Mel Bochner. Portrait of Eva Hesse, 1966. Courtesy of the artist.