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Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education opens exhibition of works by Mel Bochner
Kvetch, 2016, monoprint with collage, engraving and embossment, 77 1/2 x 90 1/4 inches. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer.

PORTLAND, ORE.- Mel Bochner - Enough Said From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundations brings together a body of recent works, 2007-2018, that challenge audiences to reflect on the nature and structure of everyday language. Curated by Bruce Guenther, Adjunct Curator for Special Exhibitions, the exhibition explores language as image and idea through Bochner’s long-held interest in complex printmaking techniques.

Bruce Guenther observed, “Bochner's historic use of language and words as both a linguistic system of inquiry and as a formal visual vocabulary of his painting practice has found new focus in the last decade through the artist’s intense engagement with printmaking and his exploration of the relationships of words as image, text, voice, and thinking. He plumbs English and Yiddish for language's power to establish identity, to command respect, or to attack in works of unpredictable emotionality and humor.”

“Mel Bochner is one of the most important conceptual artists of our time! His word art makes us smile, laugh, frown, and jeer – but always forces us to think,” comments Jordan D. Schnitzer. “He seduces us with emotions, words, and phrases that we all have used. Whether we laugh or frown experiencing his art, we are forever moved.”

Born in 1940 to an Orthodox family in Pittsburgh, the artist attended Hebrew School and was exposed to art early through his father, who was a sign painter with his workshop in the family’s basement. Evidencing an early talent for drawing, Bochner participated in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s innovative children‘s art classes eventually winning a scholarship to the Carnegie Melon University.

Bochner came of age during the second half of the 1960s, a moment of radical change both in society at large as well as in art when young artists were looking at ways of breaking with Abstract Expressionism and traditional compositional devices. Mel Bochner was quickly recognized as one of the leading figures in the development of conceptual art in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. His pioneering introduction of the use of language in the visual, led Harvard University art historian Benjamin Buchloh to describe his Working Drawings (1966) installation as “probably the first truly conceptual exhibition.”

In discussing his perspective-shifting view of language and meaning, Mel Bochner said, “When I was younger, I was clear about what my work meant. There was one interpretation. Mine. As time went by I began to become interested in the ways it was being misunderstood. Now my feeling is that for the work to continue to be relevant, it must be continually re-misunderstood.”

While painting slowly lost its preeminent position in modern art, language moved from talking about art to becoming part of art itself in large measure due to Bochner’s consistent probing of the conventions of both painting and of language. His work investigates the way we use words, construct and understand them. His work in painting and printmaking underlines the way words relate to one another and make us more attentive to the unspoken codes that underpin our engagement with the world.

In reflecting on the exhibition, OJMCHE Director Judy Margles said, “ENOUGH SAID allows visitors to OJMCHE to look closely at a seminal body of work by one of the most influential and original living American Jewish artists. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. Jordan Schnitzer uniquely shares his passion for art, and in particular prints, by making his collection available to smaller institutions and supporting outreach to students and younger audience members—which makes this opportunity truly special.”

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