Murals of La Jolla: Bochner’s ‘Resistance’

La Jolla’s latest public mural to make bold statement on Prospect Street

Asked what he was trying to convey about San Diego’s seaside “Jewel” with his contribution to the “Murals of La Jolla” public art series — comprised of the phrase, “Blah, Blah, Blah,” (also the title of the work), conceptual artist Mel Bochner laughed and assured, “don’t take it personally.”

Despite its signature phrase, Bochner is anything but blasé about his work and its intent — splashed repeatedly in black and white across the rear of the Morgan Stanley building at Prospect Street and Herschel Avenue.

The New York City-based artist explained of his “Blah, Blah, Blah” series: “We live in a world that is oversaturated with empty language — small talk, tweets, texts, leet speak (informal code used on the Internet), chit-chat, pop–up ads, telephone-answering messages (“your call is important to us …”), warnings on medicine bottles (“if you have an erection lasting more than four hours…”). If there is no escaping this linguistic tsunami, the ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’ paintings subvert it from below.”

Speaking with La Jolla Light last month, Bochner expounded, “It’s a comment on the whole situation of modern life, the barrage of bullsh*t that is always coming at us. ... It’s the same in politics. It’s just a condition in which we live, and this is my resistance.”

Among the first to examine language in the visual arts, Bochner has been questioning the clarity and efficacy of language since the 1960s. Another of his series features synonyms as streams of consciousness toying with syntax, and includes words and phrases such as: “Au Contraire, Nothing Doing, On No Account, Nein, Never Happen, No Dice, No Way Jose, and A Thousand Times No …”

Bochner created his first “Blah, Blah, Blah,” in 2002. His works have been commissioned for similar outdoor installations, including one in Manhattan’s Bowery neighborhood and another as a billboard in the I-70 Sign Show, a public art exhibition on Missouri billboards intended as a critique of the state’s copious highway advertising (three times more than neighboring states and five times the national average).

Unlike the phrase “yada, yada, yada,” which Bochner feels is too intrinsically linked to the “Seinfeld” television series (153rd episode, “The Yada Yada”) and “specifically means nothing,” he said ‘blah, blah, blah’ is “a very ambiguous statement,” which can be taken as an insult or as a point of collusion or understanding among two friends conversing.

“I think it’s something unexpected,” he said. “I also like the idea of taking this very formal situation, an outdoor public art situation where everything should be taken so seriously, and doing it ironically — and just as a gigantic sketch. It adds a kind of humor to it and, you know, a question. I want it to be something that people might get confused about or might say, ‘Why is this here?’ or ‘What does it mean?’ So, it’s just not decoration; it’s something that provokes thought, and I think that’s the role of the artist, to make people think.”

“Blah, Blah, Blah” replaces “53 Women” by Ryan McGinness, installed in 2011. Murals of La Jolla was conceived in 2010 by the La Jolla Community Foundation to enhance the civic character of the community by commissioning public art projects on private property throughout La Jolla. It is currently a project of the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library. More at muralsoflajolla.com

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