Tack ‘s final abstract paintings and designs, those of the 1930s and 1940s, continued to build selectively upon the imagery in the cycle for the Music Room of The Phillips Collection. In these late works Tack experimented with scale and mood, as reflected in Time and Timelessness of 1943-44.
Time and Timelessness is a preparatory sketch for the final monumental mural work of his career, the fire curtain for George Washington University's new Lisner Auditorium, which was commissioned in 1944. Tack described to Phillips the daunting challenges of creating a work on such a large scale. "There were several moments in its genesis," Tack wrote, "when some obstacles seemed almost insurmountable," for example, the location of a fireproof fabric and the decision to create the painting in fourteen separate panels.
For the composition of Time and Timelessness and the Lisner curtain, Tack transferred and enlarged the center-right segment of his Liberation, a work Tack executed for Philips’s Music Room cycle. The finished painting contains free, expressive application of brushstrokes in shades of blue and purple. A fanlike area of radiating lines at the central base is surprisingly soft, pearly tones are offset by the vibrant play of red outlines around the shapes. Pentimenti (changes of design) on the canvas are evident throughout the image and show the removal of shapes defined by pounced (punched) lines. Numerous layers of paint in modulated tones are laid in with a large brush and in short daubs with a sponge.
The sweeping forms, pearl-like colors, and dramatic light of Time and Timelessness provide a dramatic visual corollary to the central themes of the work: the nature of space and time, and the meaning of human endeavor. In the creation of Time and Timelessness, Tack drew upon eclectic sources: the Book of Genesis and fundamental natural forms, particularly properties of the spiral as described in scientific experimentation.
A characteristic tension between the abstract and the visible worlds invites multiple readings of Tack's painting. The figurative expression—the winged victory from classical mythology—emerges from Tack's system of forms based upon celestial views. The sense of a vast expanse of sky with drifting clouds spiraling upward is a contemporary reworking of nineteenth-century heroic idealism.