1992





OVERVIEW

- January to December: 2, 3, 3, 3, 2, 5, 3, 4, 6, 9, 3, 7. Total 50 Date Paintings.
- Akito, age 14 in April. Sahe, 13 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting: four consecutive days in October from the 20th to the 23rd. Also, Date Paintings were made in two new cities, Vancouver (AUG.28) and Aachen (6 DEZ.).


ESSAY

On Kawara would be thinking about his
89 Cities show throughout 1992. It was up in Rotterdam through January. It was up in Hamburg for much of March, April and the first ten days of May. Then the show travelled from Europe to America (as On Kawara went from New York to Tokyo) where it could be seen in Boston from late November through into the next year. Perhaps On didn't feel the need to Date Paint in Boston as he'd already done so in 1973.

How about the artist himself - how did his movements compare with his show's and with his own movements in 1991? He began the year Date Painting in New York. He flew to Europe in April and made a couple of Dates in Paris. But let's slow that down. I can't overemphasise that On Kawara was still making 'I READ' at this stage (and until the end of 1995). So even in the absence of reproductions of the Date Paintings made in 1992, and the non-existence of 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET', his movements can still be followed.

Sitting in his studio in New York then, he made two Dates in January and this is an 'I READ' page that was produced for the first one:

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And this for the second one:

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As we'll see, although the war in Vietnam had finished, there were trouble spots all around the world that On Kawara was keeping abreast of. Such as Iraq, Ireland and Korea, as above.

Though it's actually Northern Ireland that had its problems, rather than Eire, as this next 'I READ' page emphasises:

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There were three Dates painted at 140 Greene Street in February. Below is an 'I READ' page associated with the third. On was keeping an eye on Catholicism in New York. Because that was another thing that threatened to get out of hand the world over. Or am I thinking of the debauched behaviour of a minority of priests in various parts of the world? Or am I thinking first and foremost of
Father Ted?

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Moving onto March, and there was an earthquake in Turkey. Nothing much On could do about that. Except read about it and thank his lucky stars that he'd been Date Painting in Manhattan on March 14 and not walking the streets of Izmir in northern Turkey where the death toll reached 1000.


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The figure for deaths later became thousands.

Happily there was good news as well to pick up on. Ballot boxes as well as coffins in the photos that embellished the news reports in the New York Times. In April, On Kawara made three Dates and the election for the parliament in Iran was commemorated through this page of 'I READ'.

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By the 25th of April, On had flown to Europe. Where he went I don't know, apart from Paris, where he made two Dates. Had he bought a flat there? I suspect this is when he did so as from now on, Paris became something of a European hub of operations.

On may have seen his friends and contacts in Germany also, but I don't know about that as there is no trail to follow. Let's just thank goodness for the Journals and the Date Paintings and the 'I READ' files in particular:

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On was back in New York before May 22. This next 'I READ' gave me pause for thought.

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Here in the UK we too have long been able to watch talk shows on TV on either Friday or Saturday nights. At the moment (2023) Graham Norton hosts a show on Friday. And back in 1991 the New York talk show hosted by Johnny Carson was on a Friday also. A significant cultural event, and I can see why On Kawara was moved to draw attention to it.

But basically, On Kawara had his finger on the pulse of the world's trouble spots. And the Balkans was one of those.

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It's pity that no-one crated a show focussing on the Balkan war, dealing with former Yugoslavia: Bosnia, Serbia and the Bosnians, Croats, Muslims and Serbs that lived there. I mean a room full of Date Paintings, with the 'I READ' pages also on view, either in vitrines or pinned to the wall alongside the relevant Date. Such a show would ideally have been put on in Sarajevo, just as the pro-Catalan 'Timespan' show was mounted in Barcelona. It could even have been group show featuring the same artists. Lawrence Weiner, Jenny Holzer, Bruce Naumann and On Kawara.

Essentially what you would get from such show would be the image of a man sitting in room painting the date in contrast with nrewspaper articles of men shooting, bombing, grieving and despairing. The contrast between peace and war; calm and carnage.

Another trouble spot, just for a while, was Georgia:


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Because On Kawara took part in fewer shows in 1992 I am using more reproductions of 'I READ' than I have been doing. This shouldn't hide the fact that On Kawara was constantly politically aware. He paid attention to what was happening in the outside world as well as taking care of his own, interior vision.

July, 1992. Another grinning, Irish-American was emerging as the man who would steer America to peace and security. Step forward Bill Clinton, President-in-waiting:

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Towards the end of July, On flew with his family to Tokyo, as usual. On Date painted on July 23, August 6 and August 12. Let's focus on the second of these paintings as it was the third year in a row that On Kawara had chosen to record his painting process. This time he was in his Tokyo studio. Is it significant that he'd chosen AUG.6, the anniversary of the bomb falling on Hiroshima? I know he was in Tokyo, not Hiroshima. But the previous year he had been in Hiroshima and Date Painted, though not on August 6.

On began the painting at ten past midnight. By 12.26 he has laid down the first coat of what I take to be Raw Sienna. And by 1.05am the second coat covered the whole thing. That was five minutes after this photo was taken:

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

The artist left it at that for the night. By the time he took the first photo in the morning (after getting up at an unspecified time as 'I GOT UP' had been long abandoned), he had drawn his characters in pencil. Without the aid of templates, I suggest, again due to the construction of the number 9.


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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

He painted the '1992' then the 'AUG', and finished with the '6'.

Note the
breve over the U of AUG. I wonder if On was able to paint this accent and not associate it with 1945. Putting the lid on the explosion, as it were. Sealing off the radiation.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

That above photo was taken at 11.46am, and this next, below, was taken at 2.14pm:

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

Strangely, the painting seems to have got messier. It may be that the artist had rubbed the surface in such a way as to spread the white paint. But I can't think why he would have done that. So it may be simply the performance of the pre-digital camera. Is this just a less sharp image? The rendering of the background details suggests not.

By 4.39pm, the painting was a lot tidier.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

By 5.04pm, the painting had been rubbed down and was looking rough again. Like a bomb-site, I can't help suggesting.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

But the work went on for five more hours. By which time (almost 10.30pm) On Kawara was happy with the result.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Henning Weidemann, and One Million Years Foundation.

Returning to the table that I began in the last essay:

27 OTT. 1990 JUNE 9, 1991 6 AUG. 1992
No clock Clock Clock
No ashtray Ashtray No ashtray
Support - a glass Support unseen Support unseen
Hairdryer Hairdryer Hairdyer
First painted '1' of 1990 First painted first '1' of 1991. First painted '1' of 1992
Last painted '7' of '27' Last painted second '9' of 1991 Last painted '6'.

On Kawara did not follow up the painting of 6 AUG with a painting on 9 AUG, which was when the bomb fell on Nagasaki. The next Date Painting was not until the 12th of August.

He returned to New York via Date Painting stops in Vancouver and Seattle. Because Vancouver was a new city, it has been reproduced. Not in
Date painting in 89 Cities, a year too late for that. But in Date Painting in New York and 136 Cities, which was published in 2012.

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In September, On Kawara made six Dates. One in Seattle and five in New York. Here are couple of pages from 'I READ' in September. The first references Miami Beach and Somalia:

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Starvation in Somalia, sad to say.

I need to mention that at some stage in 1992 another big show would have been planned. This was an exhibition designed to complement the 89 Cities show that was making its mark in the art world and beyond. Instead of focussing on those many cities where On made Dates, it would focus exclusively on New York and the Dates made at home. There were a lot of them, safely stored away in New York, and the idea was to mount an exhibition in parades throughout a whole year. The show would have taken alot of planning, involving On Kawara as well as, one presumes, Angela Westwater, and that planning would have been done in 1992 given that the show opened at the start of 1993. As you'll see in the next essay.

In the meantime, Date Painting went on on. As did war, famine and natural disaster. Below we have an unusual situation in France. A storm that killed relatively few people. But it caught On Kawara's attention.

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France's recovery would be swift. Not so Somalia's.

On then made nine more Dates in October. I'll pick out a few 'I READ' pages from this productive period.

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The above photo is from the war in the Balkans, Serbian attacks on Bosnia. Another image for the hypothetical exhibition in Sarajevo then.

While the photo below was taken in the aftermath of a riot in a Sao Paulo jail.


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On Kawara didn't always use a strong photo prominently on his 'I READ' pages. No photo at all on this next example:

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Nor on this next page, which contains three cuttings, one on Bosnia, one on the Middle East and a third on IRA bombs in London. I was living in London at the time and was never affected by an IRA bomb, though they were often flagged up in the news.

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Back to an 'I READ" with a strong photo. The Emperor of Japan and the President of China, no less. Still talking about the last war in an effort to strengthen ties between the countries without upsetting their own peoples.

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Only three Dates painted in November. Below are 'I READ' pages for two of them. First, trouble in Florida…

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Second, news from Gujrat in Pakistan, Paris, Tokyo and more…

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I'm thinking that the variety of 'I READ' would also make a successful On Kawara show. In other words, an exhibition of a single year's Date Paintings. Each Date juxtaposed with the same day's newspaper lining the Date's box, and cuttings from the next day's newspaper mounted onto 'I READ" sheets. The Dates made all around the world, but mostly in New York where On mostly read the NewYork Times. The stories happening all around the world. Stories covering culture, disaster, elections and wars.


Let's move on to December, when On flew to Europe again. He visited Germany this time. He had been awarded the Aachen Art Prize. This was given to an artist every two years, and Richard Long had won it four years previously and Christian Boltanski would win it two years after On. I don't know, but I expect that either Konrad Fischer or Kasper K
önig were behind the awarding of the prize to On Kawara, either directly or indirectly. The prize went with a solo show at Ludwig Forum in the city, and it seems On attended the December exhibition, because he painted this in Aachen:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Aachen is not far from Dusseldorf. And it's not much further to Frankfurt. So I expect Konrad Fischer and Kasper Konig, plus families, would have travelled to Aachen to help On celebrate. I imagine Hiroko was there as well, though I can't be sure.

Perhaps the above image is by way of being a self-portrait. On Kawara at work. On Kawara at play. On Kawara reading the sports page.

On was back in New York by December 18, because he Date Painted that day. He Date painted three more New York days including December 22 where the 'I READ' page includes a feature on Frankfurt. A photo of a 100,000 strong crowd that were marching to protest against a recent wave of Neo-Nazi violence.


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On ended the year Date Painting in Boston. Why? Because that was where the third leg of Date Painting in 89 Cities had been showing since November 21 and apparently it wasn't enough that he had made a Date painting in the town in 1973.

By this time he would know all the details of the huge solo show of his Manhattan Date paintings that would be opening at Dia Art Foundation, New York, on January 1, 1993. Maybe his choice of 'I READ' to go with the Boston Date Painting was influenced by the good mood he was in.

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Good-humoured, albeit black-edged.

1992. A quiet year, mostly in New York while the show 'Date Painting in 89 Cities' toured the world and the promised show at Dia Art Foundation took shape in the minds of On Kawara and the museum's curators. .

Correct caption for the December 30 'I READ' photo? Something like:
'Giant panda On Kawara lunches on bamboo leaves last April at the Deichtorhallen, Hamburg.'

The Deichtorhallen, Hamburg? That was where 'Date Painting in 89 Cities' had been on show from the 12th of March to the 10th of May, 1992, a time when On Kawara was Date Painting exclusively at his permanent home in New York and at his new flat in Paris. It is possible to travel by train from Paris to Hamburg, but not in in time for lunch with Kasper Konig. Better to travel the day before and break the journey in Dusseldorf where Konrad Fischer and his family were always delighted to host On Kawara.

Ambassador-panda is found dead?

"I AM STILL ALIVE" says ambassador-panda.