Reacting against the reductive forms characteristic of much art of the late 1960s and early ’70s, many Downtown artists experimented with notions of temporality that defied standard measurement and invoked the transcendent. Tehching Hsieh’s Year Long Performances test the body’s limits of endurance, taking life-as-art practice to extremes. Repetitive or trance-inducing music by Steve Reich and Rhys Chatham abandons classical meter, while the abstract paintings of Peter Halley and Judy Rifka pack an optical charge. “Sublime Time” not only encompasses mesmeric or meditative artworks and compositions, but also conjures the atmosphere of the late-night club scene and even New York City itself, where time—even without the mind-altering drugs then so       prevalent—often seemed to either slow down inexorably or speed by in a blinding flash.

Judy Rifka, Museum Wallpaper, 1982
Oil on linen, two panels, 72 x 24 in.
(182.9 x 61 cm) each
Courtesy the artist