If the Color Changes



Mel Bochner, American, b. 1940, Pittsburgh, PA | David Lasry, American, American


If the Color Changes


Monotype with embossing




Monoprint with embossment
Sheet: 33 3/8 x 46 3/8 in. (84.8 x 117.8 cm)
Framed: 42 x 55 in. (106.7 x 139.7 cm)

Object Number



Mel Bochner is one of the leading artists associated with the development known as Conceptual Art. In classic Conceptual Art, the idea precedes its representation; a written idea or number sequence determines the work's outcome. During the 1960s and 1970s, Conceptual artists turned to "non-visual" forms, including writing, to record their ideas. By contrast, Bochner has always infused his Conceptualism with a strongly visual component. The series If the Color Changes exemplifies this synthetic approach. The project was inspired by a quotation from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Remarks on Color (1950-51). As one of the premier language philosophers, Wittgenstein (Austrian, 1889-1951) has long been a major source for many Conceptualists. Yet the translation of his thought into art is not straightforward, since Wittgenstein's writings question language's ability to convey what we see. A simple image-for example, "blue vase"-becomes the pretext for a dizzying language game. Is the blue a sensation, a word on a page, a thought in one's mind, an intrinsic quality of the vase? Appropriately, If the Color Changes depicts the impossibility of translation--of what we see into words, of one language into another. The overlap of the German and English versions of the text causes a mental disconnect as one attempts to hold both in one's mind. Which is the "true" representation of Wittgenstein's statement? Neither, and both.

Credit Line

Art History Department Fund


Mel Bochner: If the Color Changes, Michael C. Carlos Museum, August 22, 2002 - January 26, 2003|
Modern and Contemporary Masters: Highlights from the Works on Paper Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, January 24 - May 17, 2009
MCCM Newsletter, March - May 2002.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 155.


© Mel Bochner. Image courtesy of the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2006.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



Mel Bochner, American, b. 1940, Pittsburgh, PA | David Lasry, American, American, “If the Color Changes,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed October 23, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7874.

Social Bookmarking


Copy the code below into your web page