If Opalka’s paintings are to be considered as Details of a single work and Kawara’s date paintings can be similarly understood, then the sense of a separate art object is loosened, in spite of the stand-alone, highly-crafted aspects of the two series.
The status of the art object is further undermined if the separate manifestations are part of an ongoing work, an opus, which is virtually inseparable from the course and conduct of a life. The individual paintings become evidence of a life, in and out of art, in which the act of painting is central but only indicative.
Opalka’s insistence on the photographic self-portraits which accompany the paintings and Kawara’s equal insistence on avoiding photography are both tactics for binding art to life, for the one in the other, for art as life or life as art. In Opalka’s case, the art is accompanied by an inevitable mortality that the photographs document. While numbers are untroubled by time, this is far from the case for the artist who paints numbers.
For Kawara, the absence of a photograph of the artist perhaps suggests the ineffability of experience, of a life that stretches beyond any and every self-image. The inclusion of newspapers behind the paintings is an indication that art and life take place in a world, in a political, historical and cultural context. While individual date paintings indicate a day in a life, when any number of date paintings are placed together, paintings and artist and world are inextricably entwined.