Mel Bochner has created many fine prints with Two Palms Press, most of them high-relief, gloppy-looking monoprints produced in a hydraulic press. This past year, however, he turned to screenprinting, working with James Miller, Ali Sahmel and Melinda Harvey to produce two big, flat prints in color-shifting inks that make for an eye-popping experience. Like all Bochner’s work at Two Palms, the screenprints consist of rows of emphatic, uppercase words and expressions that run left to right and top to bottom, all of them synonyms for whatever word appears at the top left. In most instances, the terms begin straightforwardly enough, as they might in a thesaurus, but they grow unhinged as they proceed, progressing from the reasonable to the downright scatological.
Of the two screenprints, Silence is, appropriately, the more visually subtle; its list of commands begins with SILENCE! and ends with SHUT THE FUCK UP! Executed in 19 pale-hued, glimmering colors that are best seen in low light, the words nearly disappear in places, belying their insulting tenor. Still, Silence remains signature terrain, the words as blocky as in most of Bochner’s previous prints at Two Palms.
Amazing is a different beast. AMAZING! AWESOME! BREATHTAKING!, it reads, ending in the more colloquial DA BOMB! SHUT UP! OMG!, and YESS! This is the same list Bochner produced last year as a block-letter monoprint, but here, printed in three shades of pink against a color-shifting green-black ground, the words register like a 1960s psychedelic poster run amok. They drizzle and drip, dissolve and overlap, as if spontaneously, making one forget how carefully planned stencil-making has to be. They convey threat, like scrawled, Helter-Skelter type graffiti, presenting a dark underside to the mindless enthusiasm embodied in the language. The sheer vivacity of the print, combined with its twisted emotional effect, makes this an interesting development in Bochner’s formula. One waits to see if it is mere anomaly.