RISDphoto2012

For Alex.

Roman Opalka
Copy-and-pasted from wikipedia:

In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Opałka began painting a process of counting – from one to infinity. Starting in the top left-hand corner of the canvas and finishing in the bottom right-hand corner, the tiny numbers were painted in horizontal rows. Each new canvas, which the artist called a ‘detail’, took up counting where the last left off. Each ‘detail’ is the same size (196 x 135 cm), the dimension of his studio door in Warsaw. All details have the same title, “1965 / 1 – ∞”; the concept had no end, and the artist pledged his life to its execution: ‘All my work is a single thing, the description from number one to infinity. A single thing, a single life.’

Over the years there were changes to the ritual. In Opałka’s first details he painted white numbers onto a black background. In 1968 he changed to a grey background ‘because it’s not a symbolic colour, nor an emotional one’, and in 1972 he decided he would gradually lighten this grey background by adding 1 per cent more white to the ground with each passing detail. He expected to be painting virtually in white on white by the time he reached 7 777 777: ‘My objective is to get up to the white on white and still be alive.’ As of July 2004, he had reached 5.5 million. Adopting this rigorously serialized approach, Opałka aligned himself with many other artists of the time who explored making art through systems and mathematics, like Daniel BurenOn Kawara, and Hanne Darboven. He was represented in Paris and New York by Yvon Lambert and in Venice by Galleria Michela Rizzo.

In 1968 Opałka introduced a tape recorder, speaking each number into the microphone as he painted it, and also began taking passport-style photographs of himself standing before the canvas after each day’s work, a ritual bookkeeping of time passing. The process was endless, but measured against its goal – infinity – it is as naught: ‘the problem is that we are, and are about not to be’.

In 2007 Opałka participated at the symposium “Personal Structures Time-Space-Existence” a project initiated by the artist Rene Rietmeyer.

- Dan

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