Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present Language Is Not Transparent, Mel Bochner’s first solo show with the gallery and his first exhibition in Brussels for more than 20 years. For this show, Bochner will debut Language Is Not Transparent [Brussels, 2017], a wall piece taking its name from one of the artist’s most seminal works first shown at the Dwan Gallery in 1970. Bochner intends for this new iteration to premiere within Belgium’s bilingual context: translated into Flemish and French for the first time, this version adds new interpretations and layers of complexity to Bochner’s Conceptualist practice.
A leading figure of the Conceptual art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Bochner reimagined the wall as a material component, rather than simply a passive surface. Language Is Not Transparent [Brussels, 2017] consists of three black rectangles painted directly onto the wall, reappropriating the Renaissance fresco technique of sinopia. In his decision to work directly on the wall, the artist’s hand is clearly visible, via handwritten text in English, French and Flemish, scribbles of white chalk and uneven brushstrokes leaving drops of black paint that almost hit the floor. Bochner’s immediate and tangible intervention, without mediation of a canvas or frame, fundamentally changed the relationship between art, public space and the viewer. Language also plays a major role in Bochner’s overall artistic practice, and this new version of Language Is Not Transparent exemplifies his idea, as borrowed from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and others, that language is understood through a variety of cultural associations and contexts, without one definable interpretation.
Various iterations of Language Is Not Transparent have been shown globally in some of the world’s most prestigious museums and institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2017), the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (2016), Villa Arson, Nice (2010), the Art Institute of Chicago (2006) and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (1995). Bochner’s original version of Language Is Not Transparent is included in “Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971”, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.