Mel
Bochner

American artist Mel Bochner explores language and its relationship to visual art through words and text to create abstract compositions investigating the limits of language and meaning in his works on paper. If you’re looking for original Mel Bochner prints and editions for sale or would like to sell, request a complimentary valuation and browse our network’s most in-demand works.

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Biography

Mel Bochner was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1940. He is an American conceptual artist and one of the pioneers of post-minimalism in the 1960s and 1970s, a movement that sought to move away from the sleek minimalism of the time and towards more experimental, process-based art.

Mel Bochner's Early Education

Bochner studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1962. Moving to New York City, he worked alongside influential artists such as Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson, and Sol LeWitt. Bochner quickly became a significant figure in the conceptual art movement, emphasising ideas over the formal aspects of art.

An abstract background featuring horizontal delineations with a mix of discernible words and random letters.

Image © K-Auction / Chuckle © Mel Bochner 2014

1. £158,000 for Mel Bochner's Chuckle

Chuckle (2014) signifies a noteworthy achievement in Mel Bochner's artistic journey, establishing his auction record. Crafted using oil paint on velvet, Bochner first creates a digital engraving to construct a stencil that shapes the desired words. This stencil is then gently transferred onto the velvet canvas, acting as a guide for the precise manual application of paint. Through a conscious exertion of pressure, the artwork forms, generating textural variations that challenge the traditional artistic techniques employed on canvas.

Characterised by horizontal segments of abstract hues, Chuckle invites viewers to decipher its enigmatic message: certain lines reveal legible words, while others beckon interpretation from the viewer's imagination. This intricacy and allure epitomise Bochner's artistic repertoire, necessitating engagement from the viewer.

Chuckle achieved an impressive sale price of £158,000 (hammer) in July 2021 at K-Auction in South Korea, making it Mel Bochner's highest-selling work to date.

Abstract artwork with multiple shades of blue paint pouring from the top edge of the canvas and dripping downwards, forming the repeated words "Blah, Blah, Blah" within the dripped paint.

Image © Phillips / Blah, Blah, Blah © Mel Bochner 2010

2. £150,439 for Mel Bochner's Blah, Blah, Blah

Created in 2010, Blah, Blah, Blah was prominently featured in Mel Bochner's Photographs and Not Photographs 1966-2010 exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. The captivating and visceral effect of the dripping blue paint on the repeating text deliberately aims to convey nothingness to the viewer. This challenging and complex artwork compels viewers to engage with the recognisability of the words, ultimately highlighting the irony of associating them with emptiness, as indicated by the repeated word “Blah.’’

Bochner's practice entices viewers to transcend the contextual meaning of words and perceive the artwork as a whole, encompassing object: language and materiality, leading to a conceptual understanding. Blah, Blah, Blah is Mel Bochner's second highest-selling work achieving a price of £150,439 (fees included) at Phillips in July 2020.

Two large-scale canvases, displayed in a white gallery space, hang side by side. Each canvas features the repeated words "Blah, Blah, Blah" from top to bottom. The individual letters are presented in diverse colours, juxtaposed against a vibrant and abstract background with splashes of colour.

Image © Phillips / Blah, Blah, Blah © Mel Bochner 2012

3. £110,399 for Mel Bochner's Blah, Blah, Blah

Blah, Blah, Blah (2012) holds a prominent position within Mel Bochner's acclaimed Blah series, standing as his highest-selling print. Presented as a diptych, this captivating artwork comprises two expansive pieces crafted through collage and engraving techniques. The word “Blah’’ is prominently featured in a deliberate arrangement of three columns in each of the two works, allowing viewers to easily engage with the repetition. The abstracted splashes of colour that form the backdrop add visual interest and depth to the composition, further enhancing its overall impact.

The notable texture of the letters is evident with vibrant variations of colour. Bochner emphasises the dynamic relationship between language and colour and how each element evokes a visceral engaging response in viewers. Blah, Blah, Blah achieved a sale price of £110,399 (fees included) at Phillips New York in November 2016, solidifying its esteemed position as Mel Bochner's third top-selling work.

Two large canvases, exhibited in a white gallery, are positioned adjacent to each other. The words "Blah, Blah, Blah" are repeated vertically on each canvas. The letters are depicted in a variety of colours, contrasting against a lively and abstract backdrop with colourful splashes.

Image © Sotheby's / Blah, Blah, Blah © Mel Bochner 2008