Sunday, September 06, 2009
Looking at Opałka. Can one focus on the focus?
I'm sure you know the work of Roman Opałka: he has been painting the same continuous picture since 1965, consisting only of numbers, from 1 to infinity. The work has had some changes over the years, among them, in 1968, the introduction of self-portraits.
At the very enriching exhibition of a part of the permanent collection of the Center for Contemporary Arts in Warsaw, there is a room with some six of his portraits, from various periods of his life.
Today I discovered a curious detail: in this particular collection of photos, the early ones are slightly out of focus. Or rather, the focus is on the hair in the back of the head. The later we get, the better the focus. The last two pictures, of Opałka past 70, have his eyes perfectly in focus. As if the disappearing of the numbers was accompanied by the appearing of the person. As if he was more himself.
I'm sure this is a coincidence. But why should I care? What's wrong with a little hermeneutics? Can't we accept conceptual art to have a life of its own, one that eludes its original readings? Isn't the fact that Duchamp's Fountain has long disappeared, and was recreated by the artist many decades later (in several copies) because of interest in the work, isn't this a wonderful enrichment of the original work?
It might be considered a useless stretch of the pure concept. Like overdoing something that was meant to be simple. Possibly. I'll have it my way.