The show at Dominique Lévy is Roman Opalka’s first U.S. exhibition after the artist’s sudden death in 2011. Divided between two floors of the gallery’s Upper East Side brownstone building, Roman Opalka: Painting ∞ provides a synopsis of the artist’s career by showcasing over twenty five works in different media. Although Opalka’s art may at first appear modest, this show proves its uniqueness and complexity. By focusing on the artist’s inimitable technique, Roman Opalka: Painting ∞ offers insight into his scrupulous and orderly approach to Conceptual art.
Opalka, who was born in France but raised and educated in Poland, began his artistic career in Warsaw during the late 1950s by experimenting with the “phenomenon of disappearance.” The gallery’s third floor, devoted entirely to Opalka’s earlier works, presents the effects of these experiments with two of his 1963 black-and-white Chronome paintings and the series Étude sur le Mouvement (1959-1960), made with black ink on paper. As one walks around the room, the artworks reveal themselves as precursors to Opalka’s later work in their conscientious method of execution and monochromatic aesthetic. The smudges of ink in Étude sur le mouvement, though visibly influenced by gestural works of the American Abstract Expressionists and their European counterparts, the Tachists, reveal his fascination with repetitive patterns. Across the room, two tempera paintings from 1963, Chronome II and Chronome IV, present an intertwining of black and white spots, creating a nearly monochromatic surface.