Mel Bochner Drawings: A Retrospective

Saturday, Apr 23 – Aug 22, 2022

111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603

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Exhibitions are free with museum admission.


About the Exhbition

Over the course of a career that has spanned nearly six decades, Mel Bochner has been at the forefront of Conceptual Art, producing thought-provoking work in nearly every medium: drawing, painting, prints, photography, sculpture, books, and installations.

This exhibition is the first to use drawing as its principle organizing focus, foregrounding the importance of this body of work within the artist’s practice from its beginnings in the 1960s through the present. The show demonstrates Bochner’s pioneering role in redefining the traditional boundaries of drawing and illuminates the artist’s evolving ideas about seriality, temporality, and the slippage between word and image.

The exhibition includes nearly 90 works from all phases of his career—including several from the museum’s significant collection of Bochner’s earliest drawings—and explores the artist’s central themes of language, numbers, measurement, shape, and visual perception. Traditional drawing techniques (ink, pencil, pastel, chalk and charcoal on paper) join media as diverse as burnt matchsticks on paper, oil paint on newspaper, wall drawings in powder pigment, and, provocatively, stones arranged on the floor. 

Bochner has remarked, “The materiality of a drawing is central to its meaning. Every medium reveals something but hides something else. A change of mediums can reveal what was hidden, permitting new thoughts to emerge.” He has always challenged any rigid definition of drawing, and his work has consistently expanded the field with the insistent question, “What isn’t a drawing?” 

This exhibition celebrates that question. 



Portrait of Eva Hesse, 1966

Mel Bochner. Collection of the artist. Image © Mel Bochner. Photo by Nicholas Knight