Mel Bochner at the Jewish Museum

Mel Bochner moved from Pittsburgh to New York in 1964, at the age of 24, to pursue his art career. He visited the Jewish Museum to see Jasper John’s White Flag and met an old classmate who was working as a museum guard. Bochner needed work, and his classmate said that a guard had quit the day before and there might be an opening. There was an opening, and Bochner was hired as a museum guard. (The guard who had quit the previous day was Brice Marden.) Bochner worked as a guard during the day, then went back to his twenty-one dollar a month Manhattan apartment, to paint at night. After about a year on the job, he was caught napping in a quiet corner, and fired.

Scenes from the Collection

Fast forward fifty years, and Mel Bochner’s work is being exhibited, along with other pieces from the museum’s vast collection…many of which have never been seen before. The Jewish Museum’s curators will be rotating the exhibits over the next two years, choosing from the more than 30,000 objects in the permanent collection, arranging them in seven separate displays on the third floor.

On exhibit currently is Mel Bochner’s Joys of Yiddish, his painting of Yiddish words that describe a variety of annoying people, in a way that only Yiddish words can do. From kibbitzer (someone who gives unwanted advice) to meshugener (a crazy person), the Joys of Yiddish, like much of his work, spans the bridge between words and art.

Mel Bochner Voices

A new book, Mel Bochner Voices has been published by Yale University Press. Written by Jeremy Sigler, a poet and lecturer in sculpture at Yale, the volume contains color plates of more than thirty unpublished paintings and an essay by the author, and looks at the way Bochner has combined language and painting and the emotions they inspire. Bochner was a teaching assistant at Yale in 1979 and an adjunct professor in 2001.

Mel Bochner’s Work at VFA

Versions of Mel Bochner’s Blah, Blah, Blah have been seen around the world…not just as paintings, but also as murals, billboards and even as sky writing. Blah, Blah, Blah and Head Honcho (one of the works from Bochner’s Thesaurus Series) are available at VFA.

Please contact us for more information about Blah, Blah, Blah, Head Honcho or any of the other works for sale at VFA.

See More Mel Bochner Artwork for Sale