1995



OVERVIEW


- January to December: 3, 2, 2, 2, 10, 5, 3, 7, 11, 2, 2, 2. Total 49.

- Akito, aged 17 in April. Sahe 16 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting. Eight days in a row in May. Seven days in a row in September.
- Date Painting in new cities: 19 June 1995, Toyonaka; 26 Aug. 1995, Reykjavik; 2 Oct. 1995, Cologne.
- International flights. Only eight this year, compared to 12 in 1993 and 1994. In the second half of the year he is happy to work in Cologne and New York


ESSAY

The year began in New York. Specifically on the sixth floor of 140 Greene Street, his Manhattan base since 1977. And there On Kawara made a Date Painting on January 18. This is the 'I READ' for that day:

NbFETHtAQ%yEv7gtDzukfA_thumb_104e5
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

An earthquake in Kobe. That's a city in the south of Japan, though north of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don't think On
Kawara ever made a Date Painting there.

Two more Dates were made in New York in January, on the 23rd and 27th of the month. Here is 'I READ' for the latter:

qYHXg4EeR+KtIs2TWMkYiQ_thumb_104e2
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Remembering Auschwitz. How could the world forget? One million killed there compared to the 5000 who died in the Kobe earthquake.

On Kawara spent at least some of February in Japan, though he was now Date Painting in Fujimoto rather thanTokyo, so perhaps he and the rest of the family had moved home. I recall Jonathan Watkins saying that he once stayed in a house of On's that had a view of Mount Fuji. So this was maybe that place. Two Dates were made there, February 23rd and 26th, then On flew back to New York. It looks like he stayed in New York for about month, but only produced one Date Painting, on March 15.

CdjS9+jXSCaKqboYuTUgAA_thumb_104e3
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

By the end of March, On was in Paris where he Date painted 27 MAR. 1994 a well as 10 APR. 1994 and 19 APR.1994.

What next? Back to New York, of course. And there he did get stuck into some serious work. He painted ten Dates including eight in a row between May 21 and May 28. Did he paint these with an exhibition in mind? It's possible that a New York client of Angela Westwater - or a European client of Konrad Fischer - had asked for a run of Date Paintings. And it may be significant that the Date reproduced below, painted just before the eight-in-a-row, was part of the collection owned by Dorothee Fischer and on her death given to a regional museum near Dusseldorf. Relevant here may be the fact that Konrad Fischer died of cancer in December 1996. Was he known to be ill eighteen months before his death? In any case, here is the box for the Date in question:

c7TtfnBoSgKIOt1zVaSwCw_thumb_104e8.fOTakfoTSgOThKVlpDU99w_thumb_104e6
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Had Konrad Fischer been the recipient of 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams as well as I GOT UP postcards? Yes, six had been sent to Konrad in 1970, one
a month from May to October. The only other Date Painting in the 'Dorothee and Konrad Fischer Collection' from Konrad Fischer's lifetime, was dated NOV. 3 1996. This is close enough to Konrad's death (November 24, 1996) to suggest there may have been a connection. Having sold all previously painted Dates that had been in the dealer's possession, he may have wanted a Date Painting around in his last weeks so as to get the most out of each and every day. Counting down to the end of time? But I don't know.

13 JUNE,1995 was painted in Toyonaka, a city of 400,000 people in the middle of Japan. June 18th, 19th and 22nd were painted there too. It's the 19th of June that's reproduced in Date Painting in New York and 136 Cities.

7Oy6KxhmT0KvISuolCas7Q_thumb_df3a
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I now have this trick of pointing my smart phone at text in any language, and sending the translation to my computer. So I can suggest that the headline down the right concerns: 'Japanese POWs detained in Mongolia. Official documents revealed.' Russia and North Korea are also mentioned on a front page which is at least partly concerned with the aftermath of World War Two.

In August, On Kawara was in Cologne for a new Date Painting initiative. The first thing to say is that Cologne is very close to Dusseldorf. So Konrad Fischer may have been involved in this project, or have taken a close interest in it. The show was called 'On Kawara: Appear/Disappear' and the related book was published by Udo Kittelmann two years later. Its intro tells us that at any time the show consisted of 24 Dates painted in Germany. At the show's beginning, on August 26, 1995, most of the Dates had been painted in Berlin in 1976/77. There were also two Dates made in Dusseldorf and two in Wein. But the last five Dates had been painted earlier in the month of August, 1995, in Cologne, by On Kawara. That's to say, August 12, 13, 15, 19 and 22.

In the catalogue,
On Kawara: Whole and Parts, it is difficult to understand what was going on in Cologne. Partly because, in that important book published in 1996, On Kawara only uses photos of each show to put across what an exhibition was about. There is no text. For the Cologne show, there is this photo. Alas I cannot make out the dates on the Date Paintings:

d8FPhQBfQ8OrS7p%b9R3tw_thumb_e1a5
Copyright 1996 Les Presses du Réel.

The book On Kawara: Appear/Disappear, published in 1997, makes it clear that this was a unique initiative in On Kawara's oeuvre. On had painted in Barcelona in 1990 from January 9 to January 13, and had entered these paintings in the show 'Timespan' which had been open from January 19 (to February 25, 1990). But this was taking the 'performance' aspect and the site-specfic context a step further. For as the show went on, On Kawara continued to live and paint in Cologne, and every few days a new Cologne Date would be added to the show and an old Berlin Date would be taken away from it. By On Kawara? I don't know.

In this way the number of paintings remained at 24. Perhaps this was saying something about memory. How many days can we remember in any level of detail? As we create memories in the new day, do the memories of an old day have to fall away in order to make room for the new? The number 24 also reminds me that there was something similar going on in 'On Kawara: Again and Against' from 1991 and into 1992. That show consisted of 23 On Kawara Dates and 24 paintings by other artists, until Sydney, the fourth of four venues, when a 24th Date from 1989 was added to the existing 23 Dates. So let's bear that in mind.

Below is double-page from the exquisite little catalogue. It is almost identical to a photo chosen by On Kawara for Whole and Parts, the retrospective catalogue that appeared in 1996.

k+mJhlIRQ6KmWLDodAfwtg_thumb_e1a1
Copyright 1997 Maly-Verlag Köln, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Japanisches Kulturinstitut Köln.

Apart from the Dates, the installation shot shows the newspapers that went with the corresponding days. The newspapers that previously had provided the lining for each cardboard box that went with the Date when the Date was in storage, the box which was sometimes hung alongside the Date Painting.

I can make out from the little book,
On Kawara, Appear/Disappear that the 14th and 15th Dates are 2 FEB. 1977 and 5.DEZ.1986, which corresponds to the 14th and 15th Dates on the following list.


deneYLzjSoitbUViPyLiiQ_thumb_e1a3
Copyright 1997 Maly-Verlag Köln, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Japanisches Kulturinstitut Köln.


The 1997 catalogue begins with a useful diagram, to which I've added an arrow to orientate the online visitor. In the photo reproduced above, the camera was pointing in this direction.

0L2wVPCkRpOdAisxl7QIxw_thumb_e1a7


As you can see from the list of 24 Date Paintings, to begin with just over half of the Dates were from On Kawara's Berlin residency, 1976/77. Though several DPs from that time have been omitted. There were also Dates from Dusseldorf and Wien, but not from Frankfurt or Stuttgart. That almost suggests that Udo Kittelmann, the director of the gallery, had links with Konrad Fischer but not Kasper K
önig or the Froelichs. No doubt that is an incorrect deduction. Successful international curators and dealers tend to get on well with each other, as it is in everyone's interests to do so.

Let's cut to the chase. The fascinating thing is that On Kawara was Date Painting 'live' in Cologne. The five most recent paintings had been made just before the opening of the show. Quite tantalising that. You almost think that On Kawara was going to appear at the opening carrying the day's Date Painting. As the riveted audience looked on, he would remove the oldest Date from the wall, move 23 Date Paintings one hook back, and hang the brand new Date on the 24th hook. Spontaneous applause in the white cube! Everyone may be an artist, but On Kawara was
the artist!

Of course, it didn't happen that way. The fact that On Kawara was alive was to be evidenced by his body of work, not his everyday self. But it's interesting that On Kawara introduced the possibility of being present in the gallery, given that he was present in the city.

However, a complicating truth is that On Kawara took the opportunity to take a trip to Reykjavic, Iceland, a new city for him, where he made Date Paintings on the 26th and 27th of August, 1995.

ImLxZ0emTB+ebbgJyB7Bug_thumb_e1a8
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


Perhaps On had accepted this invite some time before and realised he could incorporate it into his Cologne ambitions and itinerary.

Back to the opening of the show in Cologne.

Visitor 1: "On Kawara is in this very room."

Visitor 2: "Actually, all we can say is that he is in Cologne."

Visitor 3: "Ha! - he has flown to Reykjavic."

Visitors 1 and 2: "How do you know that?"

Visitor 3: "The director of the gallery, Udo Kittelmann, just told me."

On Kawara was back in Cologne in time to paint 3.SEPT.1995, which was installed that same day. Though I imagine the installation was after the gallery had closed to the public (after all it had to be painted first). Though I can't help imagining it this way… Gallery closes at 5pm. On Kawara enters. Takes down the earliest Date Painting, 24 MARZ,1976, then moves all the others one peg back towards the start, thus creating a gap at the end of the show. On the free peg, he hangs his handiwork of earlier in the day: 3 SEPT.1995.

If not in quite that manner, the same thing happened on each of the next six days. That is, September 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 all saw a change of date as the oldest painting left the building and a brand new one was installed.

There were further changes to the show, but less frequent after that. So 12 September, 14 September, 23 September, 25 September and 2 October all saw a re-hang, to facilitate the introduction of a new Date and the removal of an old one.

CRUMCyXXR7yOeJZNs%Hcvw_thumb_df45
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Here is the final state of the show.

EFmM4xUzS1yeCGkcz8PWSw_thumb_e1a0
Copyright 1997 Maly-Verlag Köln, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Japanisches Kulturinstitut Köln.

Times had changed, so that no less than 17 of the final 24 Dates were made in Cologne in 1995. Though the Dusseldorf and Wien Dates were still there, it's almost as if the Berlin residency had never happened. Perhaps this was On Kawara's way of saying that a lot of time had passed since Berlin in 1976. Cologne in 1995 meant a lot more to him. However glorious our past it, the present is king.


The show didn't change from October 2, 1995, until its closure on October 8, 1995. It was in that period that a 'second' photo in
Whole and Parts was taken. (It is reproduced in Whole and Parts, but accidentally (I presume) flipped on its vertical axis.)

Qlu68UFzTWKjLbsYYIJYaw_thumb_e225
Copyright 1996 Les Presses du Réel.

That photo appears in Whole and Parts but not in the Cologne catalogue. Also in Whole and Parts are two double-page spreads that were taken at the final version of the show. So the first 15 Dates appear in this spread:

cbu0zTQaSeeSFRRJlcO+nQ_thumb_e1a9
Copyright 1996 Les Presses du Réel.

And the last 9 Dates in the next spread. The quality of the photos in Whole and Parts mean that, with the aid of a magnifying glass, I can confirm the Dates. Including that the one furthest to the right, the 24th Date in the final state of the show, is 2 OCT.1995:

wRQImZ9FTGOQk12oDwSyIg_thumb_e1aa
Copyright 1996 Les Presses du Réel.

But the funny thing is that the photo on the left of this second spread is of a white double-door and two radiators, those features that were't present in the photo of the gallery when the show opened, and which crop up in the second of the two installation shots. Why has On Kawara chosen to include this image? The show is called On Kawara: Appear/Disappear, which makes sense given the coming and going of individual Dates. It's almost asking the viewer to picture On Kawara entering and leaving the building through that double-door. So again his physical presence is invoked. It's somehow disturbing.

Let's recap. At the beginning of the Cologne show, all is normal. A display of Date Paintings that tells us that On Kawara was painting during specific days from 1976 to 1995, and allowing us to infer that he was alive in between those dates.

Later on in the show… What is this? A door in the gallery has been revealed. And the Dates have changed. Old ones have disappeared to be replaced by new ones.The artist is still alive, though he remains unseen. Presumably he goes in and out of the white double-door with the Dates that are being taken away and with their replacements.

I can't leave it at that. Let's take a close look at the door…


aBZ8mS76SESsLxRYVJssDg_thumb_e1b1
Copyright 1996 Les Presses du Réel.

No problem there. On could get in and out of that any time of day or night. The problem, as usual, would be getting the painting done in time to instal it before midnight.

Imagination dead? Imagination not dead yet.

October 2, 1995. A gallery in Cologne. It's late in the day and the gallery has closed to the public. On Kawara entered the gallery by the double-door and put on the lights. It was late, but not that late.

Now to work. On knew that this should only take a few minutes, as all he was doing was moving 24 small paintings a few metres to the left. The first one has to come down altogether, of course. That's
21 NOV.1976. Then he moved 24.NOV.1977 and 2.FEB.1977 to the left, and he grabbed 5. DEZ, 1986 from the long wall, hung it at its new place, and he stepped back to see what was now on the first short wall.

24 NOV. 1976
2.FEB. 1977
5 DEZ. 1986

Good that he was still hanging on to the 1976/77 residency, though only just. Next there was one painting to stand-in for the ten-year anniversary of the residency, when in fact there were six paintings made in December, 1986. Then there was a problem. A problem that had been there since the beginning of the show in August 1995, but has only been brought to my attention by my current initiative.

1989 should be represented by at least two paintings. First, one from January 1989, when On Kawara was in Stuttgart and made a Date Painting five days in a row, twice, One of those sets is now in Chicago, but the other set hangs in Stuttgart and I'm surprised that one of these paintings wasn't borrowed for this important show.

But, worse that that, where is
24APR.1989? That's the painting that On Kawara made in Frankfurt when Kasper König was installing the first leg of 'On Kawara: Again and Against'. That involved curating 24 works by artists with some connection to Frankfurt, and 23 Date Paintings by On Kawara. The missing 24th Date Painting being 24APR.1989 which was being painted in Frankfurt 2 days before the closing of the show. The presence of that significant and mysterious painting would have spoken eloquently to the ambitious vision behind the Cologne show.

Back to On Kawara. He realised that the evening was passing and that he should get on with it. Each of the 17 paintings left on the long wall must be moved to the left. He took
8. MARZ 1991 and moved it to its end spot. Then he was about to get hold of 29.DEZ,1991 and he realised that there was a second problem. From start to finish of the exhibition, there were supposed to be three size A paintings in the show, the rest being size B. The size A paintings would have more obviously moved to the left (the starting line) but without ever reaching it. However, On's actions have made me realise there are only two size A paintings, as 30.DEZ.1991, the second Date Painting made in Wein, is size B, whatever it says in the Cologne catalogue.

After getting over this minor hitch, I make quick progress. Or, rather, On Kawara does. Perhaps it is apt that the size A paintings were made in Dusseldorf and Wein. These places are not as important to On Kawara's practice as Berlin and Cologne. A small voice inside my head tells me that's nonsense. The enterprise of Konrad Fischer was essential to On Kawara's acceptance as an important artist in the minds of European collectors.

Okay, that's the long wall dealt with, having moved
14.SEPT.1995 from the end wall to the long wall. I now need to move 23.SEPT.1995 a few yards to the left (anti-clockwise one could almost say) and 25.SEPT.1995 the same distance in the same direction. And now to place the new Date on the wall. Voila! I step back and take in the scene. Those last three Dates:

23. SEPT. 1995
25. SEPT. 1995
2. OKT. 1995

The number before the month means that they could have been painted in France or Japan (rendered in Esperanto). But that dot after the numbered day was a German thing. These are all German language Dates. The show was a tribute to Germany, the country that had produced Kasper Konig and Konrad Fischer. And Konrad Fischer didn't have very long to live. Just over
a year. Hold on to life for as long as you can, Konrad. By taking it one day at time. Until the last day. Until the last day is removed from the gallery wall.

Imagination dead, imagine.

After two months in Cologne, On flew back to NewYork where he stayed for the rest of the year. In that time he made four Date Paintings. First, OCT. 31, 1995. Here is its 'I READ':

PxvHHNx+Tx2xE+MGGtNTVw_thumb_104e9
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The photo shows a line of Muslims who were being exchanged for 150 Serbian prisoners of war in northwest Bosnia.

I intend to show an 'I READ' for all of these late 1995 Dates as they are the last 'I READ' sheets that On Kawara ever made. Maybe it was presenting the newspapers as he had done in the Cologne show that inspired him to stop 'I READ'. Though that was a change from lining the cardboard box with an extract of the paper from the day itself, to showing the whole paper. Whereas 'I READ' was something different, involving the next day's newspaper, an exercise that had gone on as usual during the Cologne exhibition.

Two Dates in November. First,
NOV. 5, 1995:

Dx7YtGm6R5mqogxuDC13SQ_thumb_104ee
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The main photo above shows candles being lit for Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, who had been assassinated by a right-wing zealot.

Second November Date,
NOV. 14, 1995:

ktEI0XYJQtqq99HeHlC05g_thumb_104eb
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara rarely missed items about Japan's International relations as reported in the New York Times. That's picking up on the slightly bigger headline, but there are several clippings on this sheet. On Kawara was still reading widely.

And so onto December. The last two Date Paintings with accompanying 'I READ' sheets. First,
DEC 21, 1995:

opY5GAUAR1ioIParC%PNNw_thumb_104ec
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Poor Princess Diana. Though she had two more years to live.

Now for the last 'I READ' of all, concerning
DEC. 28, 1995:

%urKsqAsQaOi1EbOULJkOg_thumb_104ed
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Ah yes, Jeanne Calment, citizen of Arles, who had died aged 120 and was being asked about Vincent Van Gogh right up to her death. The scruffy, peculiar man that she had sold paint and canvas to in her father's shop in 1887, more than a hundred years before.

Not a bad note to end 'I READ' on.
Jeanne's female resilience and Vincent's male obsession. One dead at 120 and the other at 37.

Why did On Kawara stop producing 'I READ'? Perhaps he had this vision of someone like me, an investigator, pouring over them and working out where On Kawara was in the world. He had pulled up the 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET' drawbridges in September, 1979. And now he was pulling up the 'I READ' drawbridge at the end of 1995.

Fair enough, but this work continues.