On Kawara Installation view
unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

 In case you were wondering what sculpted time looks like, now you know.


On Kawara date paintings (4)

On Kawara, the conceptual artist and one of the few Japanese artists who are taught in Art History 101, is in town – he has a new exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery in New York. The show, which runs through February 11, 2012, primarily features Kawara’s series of Date Paintings, which he started in 1966. The minimal works consist of nothing but the date on which the painting was executed – a mark, or fragment if you will, of his existence on that particular day. If Kawara is unable to complete a painting during a single day it is destroyed. In case you were wondering what sculpted time looks like, now you know.

My personal experience in interacting with Kawara’s paintings has not been pleasant. Although visually they are as quiet as can be, I find them incredibly loud. As I stare at them I’m ironically assaulted by all the chaotic possibilities of that single day. I think if I stayed too long my head would explode.

While it would appear that stencils were used to achieve the uniformity seen in each work, every date was skillfully hand-painted – Kawara preferred it that way.  But his obsessive-compulsive behavior didn’t end there. He also methodically and meticulously recorded every painting in a journal, from a color swatch of the paint mixture he used to a year and a letter indicating its size.

On Kawara journal 1

On Kawara journal
a close-up of On Kawara’s journal, from the book “continuity/discontinuity, 1963-1979

[update] 07.10.2014
It is with great sadness that we have learned that On Kawara has passed away.