Mel Bochner's first solo exhibition in 1966 at the School of Visual Arts in New York has been described as the first exhibition of Conceptual art. Born in Pittsburgh, he received his BFA from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1962 and throughout the 1960s explored linguistic and mathematical systems through installations and drawings. In the ensuing decades, his work in painting, photography, and printmaking has continued to demonstrate an underlying basis in Conceptual thinking.
Bochner created his first prints in 1973 at the invitation of publisher Robert Feldman of Parasol Press, who, working with Crown Point Press, introduced a generation of Minimalist and Conceptual artists to printmaking. Since then Bochner has worked in various print techniques, focusing predominantly on aquatint and monoprint. Since 1995 he has made more than two hundred monoprints in collaboration with David Lasry at Two Palms Press in New York. His editioned prints number about seventy.
Rules of Inference is based on two similarly titled previous works: a site-specific floor installation from 1972 and a charcoal-and-gouache drawing from 1973. In the installation, the numbers from one through nine are represented by configurations of pebbles inferred from mathematical principles and connected by chalk lines. The drawing echoes the installation, with black circles on white paper. The third generation of this Conceptual work is the print, with a deep black aquatint surface that does not include connective lines. Its impact is of a more indeterminate and mysterious nature than its predecessors, obscuring the artist's basis in logic and certainty. In fact, the subject of all these works is not the specific mathematical principles from which they were derived, but rather the relationships between things and the process of perceiving these relationships.