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August 24, 2014 2:33 am

Mel Bochner is an Amazing Jewish Artist

avatar by Ronn Torossian

Blah by Mel Bochner. Photo: Jewish Museum.

I recently enjoyed, “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” an amazing exhibit at the Upper East Side’s Jewish Museum that highlights the work of this renowned American conceptual artist. His work explores the use of words – primarily synonyms – and within the work one can search for many different meanings of the words.

Clearly, a lot of Bochner’s work has been influenced by his being raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, where Yiddish was often spoken. Take, for example the piece entitled “The Joys of Yiddish,” which features Yiddish words in bright yellow letters on a black background. Words featured include Nudnick, Pusher, Nebbish, Mensch, Schmooze, Schmo, and more.

As an American Jew, I see these words and realize how much Jewish culture has become a part of every-day American life. Of course, with Yiddish being a dying language, the very strong black with yellow letters can also bring one back to the days when Yiddish thrived in Europe.

Another work of art on display is entitled, simply, “Jew,” and includes many words by which Jews are known. Bochner made the piece in 2008 after coming across an anti-Semitic website. He believed that by reviewing the words clearly, it allowed him to examine his own emotional and intellectual response. He rightfully noted that confronting everything creates meaning. Racism of all sorts thrives in the dark, and truly words are weapons. Art shines lights and creates attention.

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Bochner’s art is bold, colorful and in my eyes stupendous. One of his most well-known pieces is entitled “Blah Blah Blah” – something that countless people think of when describing politicians, lawyers, and sometimes even those of us who own public relations agencies.

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation – hats off to renowned artist Mel Bochner, whose first job upon arriving in NYC 50 years ago was as a security guard at The Jewish Museum, the very institution now showing his exhibit.

Kudos, Mel Bochner – You have made it.

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