August 10, 2011

Infinite numbers? No. 5,500,000... and 79.

The obit for Roman Opalka...
a leading conceptual artist who, beginning with the numeral one in 1965, methodically painted consecutive numbers on canvas in a march toward infinity, died on Saturday near Rome. He was 79....

Starting at the top left of a canvas measuring a little over four by six feet, and using acrylic paint, he used a fine brush (No. 0) to inscribe 20,000 to 30,000 white numerals on a black background in neat rows that ended at the bottom right corner. Each succeeding canvas, or “detail” as he called it, picked up where the previous one left off. As of July 2004, he had reached 5.5 million....

All the paintings in the series bore the same title, "Opalka 1965/1 — ∞." "All my work is a single thing, the description from one to infinity," Mr. Opalka once wrote. "A single thing, a single life."
If that life were a work of fiction, the project would make him immortal... and then...?

20 comments:

ndspinelli said...

redrum redrum redrum redrum redrum

Ann Althouse said...

"redrum redrum redrum redrum redrum"

I thought of that too. Also: the notebooks of Charles Crumb.

KLDAVIS said...

I wonder if he was every haunted by the thought that he should have started with 0.

A. Shmendrik said...

OK then. Did this shizzle sell?

gerry said...

Well, I may be a boorish churl, but someone painting white numerals onto white canvasses is not an artist. His craft is not art.

I've got a really detailed Brooklyn Bridge painting - also very fashionably white on white - available for a limited time...

WV: ranim. More than one ran.

ndspinelli said...

I have not read anything about the Charles Crumb notebooks. However, I'll now read up on it.

I actually understand this better than I care to admit. When I sat through boring lectures in college I would draw stars on my notebook. They were symmetrical rows of 20, seeing how high I could get in an hour. And, the Holy Cross Fathers had some pretty stale professors. We got the washed up ones from Notre Dame.

rhhardin said...

A series of works starting with 99 bottles of beer on the wall and going downwards needs to be done.

Matthias said...

He spent his whole life chasing that which was not real and, in the end, came no closer to it than when he began.

It takes commitment to allow one's life to represent a philosophical statement like that. Not my cup of tea, but there is a certain beauty to it.

EDH said...

A gallery featuring Mr. Opalka's numerical works in 2007. Over time, he came to paint white numerals on a white background...

Five years after executing his first numeral painting, he ceased all other work and devoted himself fulltime to the pursuit of infinity. In 2010, Christie’s sold three of his number paintings as a unit for $1.3 million.


What a racket! Reminds me of the Federal Reserve.

Henry said...

I used to do this in church, in my head, to get through the sermons.

Clyde said...

It took him almost forty years to get to 5.5 million. Hell, Congress does that in a few minutes!

chickenlittle said...

ndspinelli said...
I have not read anything about the Charles Crumb notebooks. However, I'll now read up on it.

@spinelli: Just watch the movie "Crumb." It's all there-including the heartbreak.

Clyde said...

Also, the story notes that he progressively lightened the background color of the canvas with each painting, until by 2008 he was painting white on white. At that point, you have the proverbial white canvas that the artist claims is "a polar bear in a blizzard." Also, we learn that Christie's sold three of his paintings as a unit for $1.3 million, proving once again President Obama's contention that some people don't need any more money.

The Crack Emcee said...

Difficulty Level: 1

Chip S. said...

Looks like his number was up.

ndspinelli said...

Crack,

My bride and I were @ the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame last year. There was a production being taped outside by the Dinner Impossible crew. Bootsy was the guest, apparently he owns a bbq joint? Bootsy played @ my brides college back in the 70's. He looked ok for an old rocker.

Chip S. said...

I can't believe there's been no love for David Foster Wallace in this thread.

MikeR said...

That's sick.

mariner said...

There's an infinite amount of stupidity in the universe, so somehow this seems appropriate.

Big Mike said...

In that latest white-on-white painting he made a mistake, accidentally leaving out 98,432 -- he went from 98,431 to 98,433. Go look if you don't believe me!