Richard Kalina reviews the exhibition Mel Bochner: Strong Language at the Jewish Museum, New York, on view through September 21, 2014.
Kalina writes: "As Duchamp was wont to do, Bochner pushes up against the resistant core of the quotidian—the unknown and the unknowable residing in the obvious and the ordinary. Language functions as the fundamental form of abstraction we engage with on a daily basis—so fundamental that we hardly see it at all, much less recognize it as an abstract and abstracting entity. It is the mental air we breathe and we ignore it unless it is taken away from us or is, in some sense, poisoned or damaged. In Bochner’s case, the abstraction of language naturally allies itself with the abstraction of painting. Art that deals directly with language confronts, of necessity, its essential abstraction, its simultaneous referencing of and removal from physical experience, as well as its tendency to hide in plain sight."