1994



INTRO

I suspect that On Kawara took much pleasure from the Chateau d'Oiron commission that involved not just painting a set of twelve Dates, one from each month of 1993, but planning to do so, since the size and the colour of all twelve paintings was consistent from JAN.10 to 17.DEC as the artist studio-hopped back and forth from New York to Paris to Tokyo. I suggest this because the artist repeated that monthly pattern in 1994. In fact, he repeated it twice, once using red acrylic for the background to the characters and once black. Making up a blue/red/black 'Today' triptych, if you like. But before I get into the complications and implications of that, let's summarise the year in figures:

OVERVIEW

- January to December: 4, 5, 6, 3, 4, 5, 3, 2, 4, 5, 4, 7. Total 52 Date Paintings.
- Akito, age 16 in April. Sahe, 15 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting: none. Except that, as I've said, hidden in the monthly totals of Date Paintings is the painting of two sets of twelve size 'B' Dates at the rate of one per month.
- New cities. Two:
16 MAY. 94, painted in Madrid. 8 DEC. 1994, painted in Lille.
- International flights. 12, as in 1993. In chronological order they were, Tokyo to New York. New York to Tokyo. Tokyo to New York. New York to Paris. Paris to New York. New York to Tokyo. Tokyo to New York. New York to Dusseldorf. Dusseldorf to New York. New York to Tokyo. Tokyo to Paris. Paris to New York.


ESSAY

On Kawara Date Painted in Tokyo on the last day of 1993 and he Date Painted in New York on January 8, 1994, which means that he flew from Tokyo to New York in the first week of the year and made a Date on the 8th of January, while fires were burning in the suburbs of Sydney.

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On Kawara made six Dates before travelling back to Tokyo. I'm going to suggest that at least two of these were made with a 12-month series in mind.
JAN. 8, 1994 being black, size B, the first of a set ending up in a private collection in Hiroshima where it was photographed by Candida Höfer in 2007. And JAN. 21, 1994 being red, size B, seen in a row of 12 same-size red paintings on display at the Konrad Fischer Gallery, Dusseldorf, in Feb/March of 1995.

Before I go any further, let's just lay down the evidence for the two sets of 12 monthly dates. First, the reds, all size B, seen at Konrad Fischer.

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Courtesy of Konrad Fischer Gallery

Thanks to my magnifying glass, I can say that the 'last' three Dates appear to be, from right to left:

5 DEZ, 1994
29 NOV. 1994
OCT. 1, 1994

And so on, back through the months of 1994. I have been in touch with the Konrad Fischer Gallery and have a list of the sixteen red paintings from 1994 that were for sale in February/March of 1995. And I'll revert to that info as the year goes on.

It's the Candida
Höfer book of photographs printed in 2009 that provides evidence of the second 'set' of monthly Dates from 1994. The set of twelve, as at 2007, were in a private collection in Hiroshima. The information as to who owned the collection is not given.

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The above photo shows eight (the ninth is a second showing of the October one) different Dates, and is the evidence I have for it being a full 12-month series. (Update: 'On Kawara: 12 months of 1994', shown at Gallery Shimada, Tokyo, in 1997.) I think April to June are only missing because the photographer didn't have enough space to elegantly show the whole series in a double-page spread. Below is a detail of the left-hand photo in the above triptych, showing the first three Dates.

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Candida Höfer, 2005. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

The above pic implies that On Kawara flew from New York to Tokyo in time to paint 21 FEB. 1994. In fact, On Dated there on Feb 16 when he made the second Date in the red series. In Tokyo, On Kawara only made those two Dates and it's tempting to think he only made the journey so as to do that. But I don't think the pattern of Date-making for the rest of the year confirms such a hypothesis.

On was back in New York in time to Date on Feb 27, a B size painting that belonged in neither of the two sets of 12. In New York, in March, he made five Dates including a red B and a black B. It is unfortunate that Konrad Fischer's documentation suggest the red Date made on March 3 was a size C as On Kawara's own records ('I READ') suggest it was size B and that's what makes sense given the 12 similar-sized red dates in the photo taken in Konrad Fisher's Gallery.

In April, the artist flew to Paris. He painted a red, size B on April 12 and it can be deduced that the size B painting made on April 25 would have been for the other set of 12 monthly Dates. Remaining in Europe, On painted two Dates in Madrid, one size A and one size B, the latter being part of the red 12. Here is a reproduction of the size A picture:

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


On Kawara , matador-artist, flew back to New York before the end of May and painted seven Dates before the end of June, so no trouble making sure that one was made for both the black monthly series and the red monthly series. In fact, I suspect he made two red Dates of size B. Here is JUNE 8 that was photographed by Candida
Höfer in a Frankfurt collection for her book in January 2007.

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Candida Höfer, 2005. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.


Now Konrad Fischer had sixteen red paintings from 1994 for sale in his gallery in early 1995. March 23 was a size C and was photographed by
Höfer in a private collection in Zurich.

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Candida Höfer, 2005. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

What better way to display an On Kawara Date Painting than by juxtaposing it with Andy Warhol prints of Joseph Beuys! Funnily enough, every time Joseph Beuys or Andy Warhol is invoked, I feel a little sad because they are dead. Whereas I don't feel the same way about On Kawara. Our greatest living artist!

October 26, 1994 is another size B and was photographed by Candida
Höfer in a private collection in New York.

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Candida Höfer, 2005. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

But that still leaves the possibility that a set of 12 monthly dates was sold to one buyer and is whereabouts unknown. A letter in the Fischer Archive is summarised as saying: 'Reservation of the work "Red Paintings, February 18 - March 14, 1995" for the Chiba City Museum.' This might mean that the red set went to the Japanese Museum but I have not been able to trace it.

Where were we? Half way through the year.

In July, On Kawara flew from New York to Tokyo and painted three Dates, two of them size B and one size A, the two size B being for the monthly sets. He was still in Tokyo to produce the red August B but was in New York to paint the black B. August is the limiting month that means On Kawara could only have ben doing a maximum of two monthly series, as he only made two Dates that month so both of them had to be parts of the monthly series I've been going on about!

(I've a feeling this is all a bit turgid. Please bear with me, gentle reader.)

One can see why On Kawara may have been interested in doing a Date Painting for each month of the year. He never missed painting at least one Date in any month from January 1966 onwards. After all a 'month', whether January or December, is related to the 30-day period it takes for the Moon to orbit the earth, and that is integral to the date as expressed by a number of days in a month in a year. The three principal celestial bodies: Earth, Sun and Moon.

Where were we? Discussing August.
Below are the August, September and October Dates, from the black monthly series, that have ended up in a Hiroshima collection:

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Candida Höfer, 2005. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

In case you can't read the Dates, they are, from right to left:

AUG. 22, 1994
6. SEPT, 1994
19.OKT. 1994

As it happens, these three were painted in New York, Germany (Dusseldorf) and Japan (Fuginomijo), respectively. Whereas the red Dates from these three months were painted in Tokyo, New York and Japan (Fuginomijo), respectively. Which sounds complicated, but it isn't. It's very simple what On Kawara was doing. He was living each day to the max. He was conscious of each day from morning til midnight, whether he was in Japan, Europe or New York. He was aware of where he was in the monthly cycle of the moon rotating around the earth.

Up until this point in the year, On had been flying back and forth to Europe and Japan, always coming back to his main home in New York. But at the end of October, with both the October Dates for the black and red monthly series done, he flew directly to Europe over Asia and the Middle East. He painted four Dates in Paris, two of them being to satisfy his commitment to the monthly series, but first two size A paintings, both made on November 18. The 'I READ' for this day consists of two pages and both deal with the situation in Palestine. Here is one of them.

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


In December, On painted three more Dates in Europe before flying back to New York in the middle of the month. On December 5 he painted the red B in Frankfurt. (Perhaps he was staying with Kasper Konig or the Konig family, presuming they still lived in Frankfurt.) Then on December 8 and 9 he painted two 'extra' dates in Lille, a city that was new to the Date Painter. That city is just an hour-and-a-half by train north from Paris, where On Kawara had had flat since, I suspect, 1992.

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


The headline in the box reads: 'Thanks to Customs, Africa enters the Museum.' The 'I READ' for that day does not include the same story, 'I READ' being taken from the next day's newspaper. Stories about the day in question, that's to say: December 8, 1994.

On Kawara flew from Paris (almost certainly) to New York to see out the year. He had one more Date to paint to complete the set of black, B Dates. Having got that out of the way on December 16, he made three more individual paintings, sizes B, C and A on the 20th, 24th and 28th of the month.

Let's try and summarise On Kawara's year. In 1994, On Kawara concentrated hard one day per week, on average, and made a Date Painting on those days. That is a meditative, disciplined procedure and would have dominated said days. Then there were the days of travel, which were considerable, and included twelve inter-continental flights of more than 12 hours each. But that left most of the year. He was then free to enjoy Europe in three different seasons, Japan too in three seasons (where Hiroko, Akito and Sahe would probably have been living when not in New York) and in New York itself, where he spent at least part of most months throughout the year, and where his game-playing friends lived full-time and his family lived part-time. An utterly fantastic and unique lifestyle, I have to say. Though not something that could be enjoyed in 2023 as a result of global warming obligations.

However, 1994 was not nearly as ambitious a year as 1993 had been as far as On Kawara exhibitions were concerned. 1993 had seen the
Date Paintings in 89 Cities tour to America. It had seen the monthly, rotating, cumulatively comprehensive display of Date Paintings made since 1966 in New York at the Dia Center in New York. It had seen the monumental wall of randomly located Date Paintings covering each month of a twenty-year period (1973 to 1993) in Bordeaux. Not to mention the smaller show of 12 monthly Dates from 1993 at Chateau d'Oiron.

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

Ah, but it was that smaller show in the Chateau d'Orion that seems to have given shape to On Kawara's 1994. It motivated him to do two more sets of twelve Dates, the red set and the black set. And possibly throughout the process he was thinking of the end product. Three rooms or galleries in the world. Perhaps one in Europe (Chateau d'Orion) where the set could be experienced. Twelve whole days. One for each month. The whole amounting to a year in which time the earth had rotated around the sun. Cosmic consciousness.

Perhaps one set in Japan. That would have to be the Hiroshima dozen. Six painted in New York, three in Japan and three in Europe. One begins to get the picture of On Kawara painting in his studio, conscious of where he was on the planet. Conscious of where the moon was in its monthly cycle of orbiting the earth. Conscious of how far the earth had got through its annual orbit of the sun. Cosmic consciousness, indeed.

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

Perhaps one in New York. That would have to be the set that Konrad Fischer was selling.

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

But surely that was more likely to have ended up in Europe. Or in the Chiba Museum in Japan. Perhaps On Kawara was happy to leave the destination of his set of twelve Dates to chance and to commerce.

It was a one-off. I don't think On came back to the 12-monthly Dates again.

Me: "Oh, On, how slow this old moon wanes."

As the curator of his own work by now, he was continually moving things along. As we'll see from one particular exhibition he put together in 1995.

Me: "Oh, On, how slow this old On wanes."