Mel Bochner, Kick Against the Pricks (Blah..Blah...Blah...) 2018
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Kick Against the Pricks, 2018
Two color silkscreen on boutique silk fair paper with blue colored back 350 gsm paper
10 1/2 inches x 28 inches
Signed and numbered from the edition of 30
In the present work, Mel Bochner, famous for his conceptual word art, transforms the ancient proverb, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks", warning the individual against the difficulty of fighting authority, into a latter-day affirmative commandment to rebel, shouted in all caps: "KICK AGAINST THE PRICKS" set against the artist's trademark "Blah Blah Blah." The original phrase was a Greek proverb, but became famous after Jesus was said to have warned Saul on the road to Damascus: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." The term "pricks" referred to the pain caused by an ox goad - a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. However, in Bochner's inversion, the phrase "Kick Against the Pricks" becomes a call for individual citizens to stand up to the Establishment, which, in the U.S. of 2018, is the Republicans and Trumpism. (This work was first sold by a Democratic Political Action Committee.) Bochner's phrase also contains a clever double entendre: the "pricks" are no longer the tips of the iron prod against oxen, but, quite literally, they can be interpreted as the secondary meaning of the word, which in modern day vernacular, is "assholes" or "jerks". (A "prick" in slang is also a penis). But anyone owning this work can appropriate the phrase for themselves - and "the pricks" can refer to any oppressor, enemy or unwelcome authority. Bochner created "Kick Against the Pricks" in a limited edition to support the political action committee "Downtown for Democracy" - which raises funds for Democratic candidates in U.S. elections nationwide. So while Jesus may have said "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" - Bochner insists that in these times, it is something we must do.
Artist Mel Bochner is highly regarded by many as a pioneer in the Conceptual Art movement. Staying true to his oeuvre, the present piece is an examination of the interconnectedness of language and art, executed in brilliant blues and an analog print-style text. The work demonstrates a continuing exploration of semantics and the ways in which visual representation informs the meaning of things.
Signed, dated, and numbered lower left in graphite by Mel Bochner
Downtown for Democracy