Proclaiming the current cultural moment as one in which all historical eras coexist, The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World (on view December 14, 2014 to April 5, 2015) constitutes the Museum of Modern Art’s first survey of contemporary painting in over thirty years. Occupying half of the museum’s uppermost floor, The Forever Now presents works by seventeen international living artists that is grounded in art historical references but shuns the constraints of art historical chronology. While vibrant and engaging, an exhibition of such stature merits criticism concerning the market-driven nature of much modern-day painting. The show asserts a-temporality as its theoretical basis, appearing first and foremost as MoMA’s unwavering and bold (though risky) attempt to take seriously—and defend—painting when its integrity is severely undermined by the whopping demands of the ever-expanding contemporary art market.
The Forever Now presents painting in the wake of the proliferated image and Internet culture, drawing its thesis from the definition of “a-temporality” (or timelessness) first proposed by science fiction writer William Gibson. In the words of curator Laura Hoptman, the artists represented in the show relieve their art of “modernism’s burden of progress.” The exhibition features predominantly abstract works in diverse media. Striving to present a multitude of inspirations and styles in an a-temporal world, the curators (Hoptman with curatorial assistant Margaret Ewing) provide the viewer an opportunity to experience timeless art in full scale. There are, among other works, Joe Bradley’s crude drawings on canvas, Julie Mehretu’s grey scribble paintings, Oscar Murillo’s colorful patchworks, and Mary Weatherford’s striking neon works. All of them are large, vibrant, and audacious, as if openly making the declaration: painting is alive and well.
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.