Wall Drawing Series: Mel Bochner

Oct 20, 2022 – Sep 2023
Menil Drawing Institute

The Menil Drawing Institute’s Wall Drawing Series presents Smudge, 1968/2022, a new blue powder pigment drawing by Conceptual American artist Mel Bochner (b. 1940). Bochner once wrote on how the first pieces he ever made directly on the wall utilized blue raw pigment—a dry carpenter’s chalk. As he rubbed the dry pigment into the wall, an image began to emerge, a “smudge,” roughly traced by the arc of his arm’s reach. “The film of color, inseparable from the wall itself, had no discernable thickness,” Bochner wrote. “It was emphatically visual, yet perceptually dislocated, seeming to float just slightly in front of the spatialized whiteness of the wall.”

Wall Drawing Series: Mel Bochner is curated by Edouard Kopp, Chief Curator, Menil Drawing Institute. This is the fourth installment in the Menil Collection’s Wall Drawing Series, which began in 2018 as part of the institute’s commitment to seeking new approaches to the form and language of drawing.

About the Artist

Mel Bochner (b. 1940) is recognized as one of the leading figures in the development of Conceptual art in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Emerging at a time when painting was increasingly discussed as outmoded, Bochner became part of a new generation of artists, which also included Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Robert Smithson - artists who, like Bochner, were looking at ways of breaking with Abstract Expressionism and traditional compositional devices. Bochner’s groundbreaking introduction of language into the visual led the art historian Benjamin Buchloh to describe his 1966 exhibition Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed as Art as “probably the first truly conceptual exhibition.”

Bochner’s art came of age during the second half of the 1960s, a moment of radical change in society at large as well as in art. He has consistently probed the conventions of painting, drawing, and language, the way we construct and understand them, and how they relate to one another. Ultimately, his art strives to make us more attentive to the unspoken codes that underpin our engagement with the world.

This wall drawing is generously supported by Scott and Judy Nyquist; Elizabeth and Barry Young/UBS Private Wealth; Eddie and Chinhui Allen; and Dillon Kyle and Sam Lasseter.
Wall Drawing Series: Mel Bochner at the Menil Drawing Institute, Houston. Video: Jay Clark
Artist Talk: Mel Bochner | The Menil Collection, Houston. October 19, 2022.