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T01858 Four Times Three 1973
Charcoal on paper, 38 x 50 (96.5 x 127)
Purchased from the artist through the Sonnabend Gallery, Inc. (Grant-in-Aid) 1974
Exh: Non-Verbal Structures, Sonnabend Gallery, New York, September-October 1973 (no catalogue)
Mel Bochner's exhibition Non-Verbal Structures at the Sonnabend Gallery in 1973 consisted of fourteen drawings, each the same size, each in charcoal and some with white gouache. In the second space of the gallery was a wall installation consisting of six rectangular areas painted red, yellow and blue in enamel paint.
The drawing consists of four groups of three shapes - a pentagon, a square and an equilateral triangle - each group with sides of a uniform length. Thus the forms on the right all have sides 9in long, those along the bottom are 7in, those at the top left are 5in and the ones in the centre are 3in. A drawing in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, entitled 'Three Times Four', has exactly the same sequences but is in black on white instead of white on black. It has various tentative sketchings, which show how the artist moved the shapes around on the page until their ultimate relationships were set. He then took it and by measurement was able to transfer the location of the shapes to the work now owned by the Tate.
The artist has written of these works (24 February 1974): 'Next to nothing has been written about these drawings, and I myself find it difficult to say anything on them. It does not seem to me that they, in any major way, represent a departure from my own particular way of thinking and seeing. Perhaps in some earlier work I had "bracketed-out" certain aspects of the visual experience in order to verify for myself the intellectual structure which now stands behind these drawings. I began these drawings after having finished a work titled Axiom of Indifference which had engaged my mind almost exclusively for over a year. I felt that this work was summary and conclusive in terms of what I had been involved with up to that time. It now seemed necessary to begin again, to develop certain threads of the work, which in the past had been suspended. Let me say that at no point was my work, to me, anything other than visual art. The drawing which you own was the final drawing made for the 1973 exhibition. I wanted to see if the types of relationships and proportions I had been studying could be rigorously set, in a definite, fixed form. By reversing the value structure to white on black (actually it remains black [charcoal] on white [paper] but is read in reverse) I hoped to be able to see more clearly the specifics of placement and interior part-to-part sequencing. A numerical progression does indeed scaffold this drawing, but it is of the most rudimentary sort, simply counting. Each measure-group also has an axial relationship which ties it to its components (this is probably clearest in the 7" group). These in turn bear odd visual-area analogous relations with other groups, i.e. the 3" pentagon appears to be equal in area to the 5" triangle.
'Most of the above concerns are formal, structural concerns in nature. But if my means are aesthetic, my ends are not. The work's value must rest on the clarity of its meaning. This is an illusive subject which does not necessitate words. Suffice it to say that I believe that "Four Times Three" is congruent with my feelings. And to achieve clarity is, as Rothko said, ultimately to be understood.'
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.62-3, reproduced p.62