1971/72


JANUARY

I wasn't going to write about 1971, instead I intended to jump to 1973, for which I've got much more source material. (Now that I've covered the first five crucial years, I feel I've a little leeway in terms of blanket coverage of On Kawara's output.) But two things have caused me to change my mind. The first was the arrival of the book,
Horizontality/Verticality, which was published in 2000 to coincide with an exhibition at Lenbachhaus, Munich, and Museum Ludwig, Cologne, where Kasper König was then the director. It contains an I WENT map on each double page, and the corresponding I GOT UP postcard. Can you imagine such riches? I was glad to fork out £100 for it. See the SS On Kawara as it sails across the floor of my front room.

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holders.

It's not that it contains that much concerning 1971, just four map/postcard combos. But these add layers to the beginning of On Kawara's 1971. Three postcards were sent to John Perreault, the New York art writer and artist. He was art critic for The Village Voice at this time and championed the avant garde. In 1968, when several names were used to describe the art now known as Minimalism, he predicted that the term minimalism would "stick".

Here is the first card to Perreault in
Horizontality/Vericality:

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

It shows that at the beginning of the new year, On Kawara left Tokyo to go to Okayama. That is, he travelled south, towards Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though not as far as those decimated places.

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In fact, he went to a sort of paradise. A manicured landscape dotted delicately and discreetly with shinto temples and miniature trees.

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

The map above is a detail from the I WENT of the same day in 1971 as is the above postcard: January 4.

Turning to Google, fifty years later:

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The blue lines are where one can drop down to in order to enjoy a groundhog's view. So I chose the path between the two parts of the lake, a place that On Kawara has indicated in red biro as having been on his own route.

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And I looked around. As On Kawara must have done half a century ago. With me feeling certain that he would have been looking at much the same thing, so controlled and timeless is the landscape.

The shot below reminds me of the Charles Jenks work permanently installed in the grounds of Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh. Such a shame that no-one ever did for On Kawara what Richard Demarco did for Joseph Beuys: invite him to Scotland.

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Without access to the I MET for this period, I don't know if On Kawara was travelling solo or with family members. The postcards are of exactly the same place he was visiting, which is unusual for him. But then it was unusual for On Kawara to see himself as a tourist, as such. Usually, he was a travelling Date Painter.

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

The above postcard shows he had moved, and was now staying on a hillside, close to two shrines. Information which is confirmed by this detail from his I WENT of the same day, January 7, 1971.


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

In the aerial photo reproduced below, On Kawara was staying in accommodation in the upper left sub-area. Handy for the marked Shinto shrine, on the right, and for Matsuo Shrine, left.

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It was one of these houses that the artist was staying in. I would suggest this was private housing rather than a hotel, in which case it's more likely that he was with friends or family, but I don't know.

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The next postcard to John Perreault confirms On Kawara continued to explore Okayama.

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

Perhaps I didn't need to include this particular stop. But I'm greatly enjoying soaking up a Japanese aesthetic. As I feel On Kawara may have been in January 1971, reminding himself who he was and where he came from. So let it stay.

Above is an extract from the right-hand page, with On Kawara emerging from his horizontal time. And below is the postcard found on the left-hand page, showing where On Kawara went during his vertical hours.


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

The map below shows On Kawara's three sleeping places, from left to right: January 4, January 7 and January 8. The first stop, the peaceful park, being much the closest to a city centre.


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There was no Date Painting being done during this time, another thing that suggests to me he may have had company.

In fact, the next Date Painting was not made until January 29, by which time he was alone in Hawaii.

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

The subtitle of the above Date Painting reads: "A devastating cyclone, Felice, tore across Mozambique, the Portuguese possession in East Africa today. Government officials said they feared as many as 100,000 persons might have been killed."

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

Not much sign of a devastating cyclone in or around Waikiki Bay. I've marked On Kawara's hotel which is a high-rise close to the beach itself. Once again, On Kawara was in position 'A'. Soaking up the best that this World Heritage Site had to offer. Indeed, how did On Kawara spend January, 1971? In my opinion, he was World Heritage Site-hopping.

That's the Reef Hotel, near the top and dead-centre of this aerial view, below. With a fabulous view of the beach and bay from many of its windows. It would also feature on the picture side of the postcards OK would send from here.

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As you can tell from the following postcard, On Kawara didn't sleep that well. Laughing oneself to sleep is all very well. But the laughter can go on in dreams and lead to laughing oneself awake. Maybe the sizzling sound of the surf on the sand got him up as well. The dawn chorus, as it were…

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

As I said, On Kawara made a Date painting on the 29th. But he didn't on the 30th. What did he do instead? Well, he may have lain awake in the early hours of the morning with stuff and nonsense going through his head;

'Skirts are going up-up-up in Hawaii

'Skirts are going hula-hula-hula in Honolulu.

'Skirts are going hoop-hoop-hoop in Waikiki Bay.'

It was no good. He was going to have to get up and write a postcard to Hiroko:

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

Note the destination address. Who would be the first human being to set eyes on it? Was this a postcard to Hiroko or to himself?

Hirok-ok-ok-o.

And what did he do after that? Well, he either looked longingly at the sea, or he took a dip in the same. How could he not have?

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The plane home to New York could wait. Not for ever. Not even for a day. But for now.



FEBRUARY

Back in New York, On Kawara began sending postcards to Germano Celant, an Italian gallerist, curator and writer. One of his books is called
Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art, an exhibition catalogue from a show he curated in Turin in 1970. Oh, and he wrote the essay. On Kawara features in this book/exhibition, along with many others.

Something else to pick up from the card is that the picture is of the Guggenheim. On Kawara had been selected to take part in an important international group show, opening mid-February. This is the second reason for not passing over 1971.

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

The catalogue for the Guggenheim show was a box within a box. Below is the outer cover.


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Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

Guggenheim International Exhibition, the letters stand for.

Inside an inner box is an illustrated text, with essays by the two selectors, first, Diane Walden, and second, Edward F. Fry, The latter was on an I MET list in 1970.

The box also contained fold-out pamphlets for the 21 selected artists. Who were:

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Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

The division of artists into nationalities seems old-fashioned now. Surely On Kawara identified as being 'based in New York' even then. It also has to be said that all but one of these 21 artists were male. And none of them, as far as I'm aware, was black. Moreover, when you flick through the catalogue essays, the images (there are none representing On Kawara, or his work) give the collective impression of white men exploring, dominating and taming nature. Richard Long's work in the landscape is given prominence. Richard Serra's heavy-metal work is also unmissable. And Bruce Nauman is given a double-page spread, where the artist is shown, on both pages, in an urban studio dressed in black t-shirt and jeans, bursting with self-regarding enterprise.

Some of the artists get a four-page fold-out, while On Kawara gets two pages. These are revealing. The only 'image' On Kawara has in the catalogue is this:

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Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

What is it? It's a list of dates. It's a list of the days in the first five years of his Date Painting, where he made a Date Painting. And while that may make perfect sense to the reader of this website, it might be a little more obscure to the uninitiated.

On Kawara's other page contains, on the far left, a list of exhibitions he'd been involved with since Date Painting began. His bibliography, also to the left, is confined to a couple of things Joseph Kosuth had written about him. His biography, on the right, is expressed in the same format as that of the other artists in the show.

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Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

Note that it is
not expressed as a number of days. I suspect On Kawara realised he'd missed an opportunity here. After all, his work in the exhibition was this.

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A month's worth of Date Paintings from March 1, 1970 to 31 March, 1970. He'd wanted to show the entire DP-per-day exercise, January to March, 1970, but wasn't allocated enough space in the show for that.

But what a great trilogy that might have been. I don't mean the three months, though that would have made a huge impact on the audience. I mean, first, the row of Date Paintings in the Guggenheim exhibition. Second, the list of dates from 1966 to 1970 in the catalogue. And, third, the number of days On Kawara had been alive.

Of course, On Kawara learned from this experience and, from then on, his biography always was expressed in days. Though I'll be checking that out, wherever I get the opportunity to do so.

On Kawara attended the private view. What else accounts for the fact that on his I MET list for February 15, appear nine of the participating artists?


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

In some ways, Konrad Fischer was the most important name on that non-hierarchical list. The Germany-based dealer that On Kawara had sent 120 cards to as soon as he'd got back from Mexico in 1969. Konrad Fischer had professional connections with several of the artists in the show, for instance Richard Long who he went on to work with for decades.

Tate Papers includes a text - by Lynda Morris, drawing on work by Sophie Richard - that emphasises how important Konrad Fischer - as a dealer and a curator - was in ensuring the success of Conceptual Art in both Europe and for American artists.

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I was wondering why Joseph Beuys wasn't part of this Guggenheim show. Because Konrad Fischer had no interest in him being there. If Hiroko Hiraoka and On Kawara had met Konrad Fischer at the opening, as I suspect they did, the latter would have made sure that they were introduced to his other artists.

Here is the list of 'Firsts' that is mentioned in the article I quoted from above.

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All of the Guggenheim artists that On Kawara met per his I MET list on February 15 are on that Konrad Fischer Firsts list. Which makes me think that it may have been a special Konrad Fischer invitation event (a dinner party?) rather than an official Guggenheim opening.

Were there limits to Konrad Fischer's influence? One of his artists, Daniel Buren, was excluded from the show because other exhibiting artists objected to the enormous striped flag he'd installed, from skylight to just above the floor, impeding the view of their own work. Carl Andre (another Fischer artist) pulled out and several artists (including Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman and Lawrence Weiner) signed a letter of protest. I'm not sure if On Kawara signed it, but I wouldn't have thought so. Dan Flavin wrote a damning letter of his own. All of these artists are now represented by the Konrad Fischer Gallery, suggesting that ultimately he was an irresistible force as far as artists commercial interests were concerned


If it was the official opening on February 15, I don't think On Kawara could have enjoyed himself much. (Maybe he missed Dan Graham, who hadn't been selected for the show.) It is said that he stopped going to his own openings. It's said he found the conversations trivial. But I'm not sure that rings true. He had a tremendous curiosity about people, and life in general, as we've seen. If an artist talked about himself and his art to the exclusion of all else, OK would have found that interesting too. Perhaps the problem was more to do with unwanted photography. OK had decided he did not want to be photographed. There were things he
did want. And he didn't want anything else on top of that. Postcards, Date Paintings, I MET lists. I WENT maps and I READ volumes. That was it. No more. And if he attended his shows it would have been too easy for a journalist to clock the Japanese guy standing in the same room as a row of Date Paintings and to make hay by clicking away.

The next day, On Kawara made a Date Painting. It's subtitled: "I got up at 8.09 a.m. and painted this." This was the first time he'd used that sentence construction since five days in a row while painting the date in May, 1969. A statement of intent, perhaps. The following painting crops up in the Candida Höfer book, the picture being in the collection of David and Monica Zwirner, David Zwirner being On Kawara's long-time American gallerist.

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

Feb. 16, 1971: "I got up at 8.09 a.m. and painted this.

Feb. 22, 1971: About the British government selling helicopters to South Africa.

Feb. 23 1971: About South Viet Nam's military intentions.

Feb 24, 1971: About Algeria nationalising its natural assets, that previously had been French.

Feb. 25, 1971: "I got up at 11.03a.m. and painted this."

On Kawara has got back into
a painting rhythm. The subtitles are all quotes from the newspaper, except for the personal statement ("I got up") that is much more formally tight than the personal statements that had appeared in 1966 and 1967. Such as "I am afraid of my date paintings," and "I make love to the days".



MARCH

Five Date Paintings in March:

Mar. 3, 1971: About a Chinese satellite launch.

Mar. 5, 1971: "I got up at 12.30P.M. and painted this."

Mar. 9 1971: About a murder in Northern Ireland.

Mar. 19, 1971: About the location of a place in Chile.

Mar. 24, 1971: "I got up at 11.25A.M. and painted this."

The last of these is in the Belgian collection that has already cropped up a couple of times:

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

HH: "What do you mean 'I got up at 11.25 a.m. and painted this?'

OK: "What do you mean, 'What do you mean: "I got up at 11.25 a.m. and painted this?"'"

They both laugh.



APRIL


Apr. 6, 1971: About the death of Stravinsky in New York.

Apr.7, 1971: "I got up at 2.12 P.M. and painted this."

Apr. 13, 1971: "I got up at 11.41 A.M. and painted this."

Apr. 16, 1971: About the U.S. table tennis team in China.

Apr. 17, 1971: About the independence of Bangladesh being declared.

Apr. 19, 1971: About fires in the Cherokee National Forest.

Apr.20, 1971: About a solar powered moon rover.

Apr. 21, 1971: About student protests in Venezuela.

Apr.22, 1971: About Soviet astronauts in earth orbit.

Again, just one of these paintings crops up in Candida
Höfer's book, and that's April 13 (clearly legible in the book itself):

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

From early April until late June, Roger Mazarguil was receiving a daily postcard. He would be On Kawara's gallerist in Paris. Actually, that's not right, Yvon Lambert was On Kawara's gallersit in Paris. Roger Mazarguil owned a restaurant called Chez Georges. He was enthusiastic about minimal art and conceptual art and would talk to the American artists that lunched at his restaurant, such as Daniel Buren, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd and Carl Andre. On Kawara also.

I've learned from an online interview with Roger Mazarguil's son, that Roger named his cat Iroko after On Kawara's partner, who he admired for her delicacy. When in
Paris, the Kawaras dined at Chez Georges. Though this may have been a year or two later.

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

I've also seen a June, 1971, postcard to Roger Mazarguil. There the picture side is of the Guggenheim. So On Kawara may still have had positive feelings about appearing in the group show there.

What with cards going to Germano Celant (Genoa, Italy) and Francoise Lambert (Milan, Italy) this might signal a slight change in emphasis in recipients, from art writers and conceptual artists from New York to commercial but farseeing gallerists from Europe. Anyway, I'll bear that in mind.

In April, On Kawara sent the following telegram to Klaus Honnef in Munster.

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

Klaus Honnef was honorary professor of photography theory at the Kassel Art Academy. He was one of the organisers of Documenta 5 and 6 that took place in Kassel. He curated many exhibitions and wrote several books on contemporary art, pop art and Andy Warhol.

This is another extract from the work of Lynda Morris/Sophie Richard.

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In other words, by sending 120 postcards to Konrad Fisher in 1969 and several telegrams to Klaus Honnef in 1971, On Kawara was maximising his visibility at the very highest level of the art world.

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

Apparently, On Kawara wrote 20 of these telegrams to Klaus Honnef in 1971. I wonder what difference On Kawara remaining alive meant to him?

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

Although he wrote the message, On Kawara wasn't responsible for the look of the telegrams, which varied depending on which country they were being received in. I would describe these German telegrams as being rendered in a Joseph Beuys aesthetic. Maybe Beuys got that look from something in his own culture. Something that influenced the branding of the post office as well. Just a thought.

I feel I'd like to be writing more about Joseph Beuys in an On Kawara context, but I need a good reason to. I get the feeling they were kept apart. Perhaps that was Konrad Fischer's doing. Anyway, I'll try and bring those titanic figures of conceptual art together at some point.





MAY

On Kawara painted at least one Date Painting every day of May.

May 1, 1971: A list of maximum temperatures in 21 cities round the world.

May 2, 1971: About Indian planes violating Pakistani air space.

May 3, 1971: About 7000 anti-war protesters in Washington.

May 4, 1971: "I got up at 11.17 A.M. and painted this."

May 5, 1971: About the closing of the foreign exchange markets in West Germany.

May 6, 1971: About a warning given in America to avoid eating swordfish, which has high levels of mercury.

May 7, 1971: About the resumption of trade between the U.S. and China.

May 7, 1971: About President Pompidou flying at twice the speed of sound in Concorde.

I'll pause there because these eight paintings were sold to Dr. Jost Herbig, a scientist from Cologne. This means that On Kawara, no longer in the first five years of his project, was now willing to sell his work. I'm not sure when the sale was actually made (but see later in this essay) because On Kawara sent 121 postcards to this collector between July 14 and November 21. I have a reproduction of just one of them:

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


Back to the Date Painting sub-titles:

May 8, 1971: "I got up at 12.32pm and painted this."

May 9, 1971: About West Germany floating the mark against the dollar.

May 10, 1971: About the drowning of 75 passengers when a bus plunged into a reservoir near Seoul.

May 11, 1971: The name of an ancient temple in Cambodia.

May 12, 1971: About an earthquake in Turkey.

May 13, 1971: About Uganda's government's attempt to bring back and arrest a former President.

May 14, 1971: "I got up at 12.21 P.M. and painted this."

There is almost weekly rhythm going on here. Let's carry on and see if we can be more specific about this.

May 14, 1971: About the Communist party chief in Czechoslovakia lashing out against the nation's leading popular singer.

May 15, 1971: About uranium radioactive waste in Colorado, U.S.A.

May 16, 1971: About hairnets being introduced for long-haired Swedish servicemen.

May 17, 1971: About the kidnapping of an Israeli Consul General in Turkey.

May 18, 1971: "I got up at 6.51 A.M. and painted this."

Or is it groups of five? Is that where the rhythm is?

May 19, 1971: About a Soviet Union spacecraft sent to Mars.

May 20, 1971: About the possibility of a U.S./ Soviet Union arms deal.

May 21, 1971: About the murder of two New York policemen in Harlem.

May 22, 1971: About pollution in two Rhine tributaries killing millions of fish.

May 23, 1971: About the kidnapping of a British politician by Argentine guerrillas.

May 24, 1971: "I got up at 11.04 A.M. and painted this."

Or is it groups of six?!

May 25, 1971: About a Soviet supersonic airliner's maiden flight to the West, landing in Paris.

May 26, 1971: About Australian Airways, Quantas, paying a ransom to a hoaxer.

May 27, 1971: About the Soviet and Egyptian leaders signing a15-year peace treaty.

May 28, 1971: About the Singapore Government revoking a Singapore newspaper's license.

May 29, 1971: A list of four Jews who had been sent to prison in middle America.

May 29, 1971: "I got up at 12.06pm and painted this."

These groupings are bringing to mind a double-page set of photographs that appears in
On Kawara, continuity/discontinuity.

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What is this? It's a series of photographs of most of the Date Paintings made in 1971. At the foot of the pages is stated: 'From Journal of 1971'. I take this to mean that the double page - as laid out - comes direct from On Kawara's 'Journal'.

Several points arise:

A study of the background suggests that all the images were taken at the same place. In other words, On Kawara takes five or six Date Paintings out of their boxes and photographs them at this chosen spot in his studio.

Does he do that as the year progresses? Or is this an end of year survey? I suggest the latter, as to do anything as systematic as this, and have the photos developed in the pre-digital way, would be easier to do a single time. Not that On Kawara always liked to make things easy for himself.

A total of 84 paintings are shown, while the actual number of paintings made in 1971 was 126. So I had better try and work out which 42 paintings are not shown and why that might be. Let's start by focusing on the first half of the year, the left hand page.


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

Starting with the top left image. The two paintings made in Japan are not shown (presumably because they were left in Japan) and nor is Feb 16 (presumably because it had been given to David Zwirner.)

Moving to the top right image. March 3 is missing.

Down to the second row. Left image. None missing.

Between the left image and the right image, April 20, 21 and 22, plus May 1 and May 2 are missing. My first thought was that two of these were sold to Dr. Jost Herbig. But then I realised that there are five Date paintings in a row missing, and so it may be that On Kawara has simply chosen to leave out that photo, if it was taken. That should become clearer as this exercise unfolds.

Second row, right image. None missing.

Third row, left image. None missing. (There are two May 7 paintings which is why that date occurs in two different photos.)

Third row, right image. None missing.

Before the bottom row, left image the following paintings are missing: May 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. That's ten in all. So, again, it could be that two photos have either not been taken, or excluded from the layout for practical reasons.

Bottom row, left. None missing.

Bottom row, right. None missing.

My tentative conclusion would be that at the end of 1971, On Kawara has photographed all his Date Paintings for the year. Save the two he gave to people in Japan, and the one he gave to his American dealer. This suggests that Dr Jost Herbig would have had to wait until after this end-of-year summation before being able to take possession of his eight Date Paintings from May 1971.

But let's see whether the right-hand image confirms this.

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


Top left photo. June 9 is missing. Correction! On Kawara has simply placed it out of order. None missing

Between the top left and top right photos there are no paintings missing, despite the 15-day gap.

Top right none missing.

Second row left and right. None missing.

Between the second and third rows, missing are Oct 11, 12, 13, 15. I have no explanation for this.

Third row left and right. None missing.

Between the third and fourth rows, missing are: Oct 29, 31; Nov 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19, 20. Thankfully that comes to ten paintings, so I suspect that's just two omitted photos.

Bottom left, none missing.

Between bottom left and bottom right, Nov. 25, 26, 28, 30 and Dec 6, 10, 14, 15 and 16. That's nine paintings. Tricky!

Bottom right. None missing.

Quick check: 1 + 2 + 1 + 5 + 10 + 4 + 10 + 9 = 42.

My tentative conclusion is the same. Or put it this way. On Kawara did not sell his Date Paintings in the year of painting (though he did give away the odd one), because an end of year survey was important to him. Perhaps it gave him pleasure to see the year laid out in terms of his output of paintings. Not a painting for every day of the year, by any means. Though he'd achieved that in May, 1971. But several paintings made in each month of the year.

If he had sold the eight May paintings to Dr Herb Jostig in May, then that might have demotivated him from making a painting every day of that month. And although On Kawara didn't, in the end, keep the May paintings together as a set, presumably he had that option until after the end of year review.


OCTOBER

I say I have no explanation for four October paintings to be unaccounted for. But there is something that comes to mind. Or rather somebody: Kasper
König.

I suspect that KK had been in Europe for most or all of the time since OK got back from Mexico in spring, 1969. He was director of the experimental space A 37 90 89 in Antwerp from 1969. I expect OK sent postcards to him there, but I haven't come across such a thing yet. I expect KK crops up on the occasional I MET list, when visiting New York (clearly he wasn't in town for the Guggenheim opening in February, 1971), because he does feature in the following I MET from October 3, 1971:

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

Gilbert and George had a show at the Sonnabend gallery. And as G&G had been taken on by KK's compatriot, Konrad Fischer, KK and his girlfriend, Ilka Schellenberg may have been keen to catch their performance and to meet the artist duo. I have a hunch that Hiroko Hiraoka and On Kawara plus Kasper Konig and Ilka Schellenberg made their way together to the Sonnabend Gallery.

I don't know exactly what happened. I think Gilbert and George, who were just four years into their partnership, were each day of the show singing 'Underneath the Arches' in a room on which their huge canvases spilled forth, an early variation of the G&G philosophy that they've succeeded in keeping alive for five decades now.

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Take it away, Gilbert and George:

"Underneath the arches,
We dream our dreams away,
Underneath the arches,
On cobblestones we lay.
Back to back we're sleeping,
Tired out and Worn,
Happy when the daylight comes creeping,
Heralding the dawn."

"Pavement is my pillow,
No matter where I roam,
Underneath the arches,
We dream our dreams of home."


Watching the odd couple perform may have helped solidify an idea of British quaintness in On Kawara's mind. I imagine Kasper
König did most of the talking when whatever 'meeting' took place. But that is speculative. Could the presence of Kasper König in New York explain the four 'missing' On Kawara's from October 11 to October 15? Well, it certainly could. KK had been given On Kawara paintings as early as 1967. But whether it does is a matter of conjecture as things stand.

I'm not going to write about 1972 for now. Not at length. Not until I've accumulated a decent amount of source material. What do I mean? Well, in that exquisite book,
On Kawara, Horozontality/Verticality which I began this page with, there is just one I GOT UP postcard and associated I WENT map. (Whereas there are as many as 33 of each for 1973,) There is nothing at all re 1972 in the Phaidon volume. There are two 1972 postcards, one I WENT map and one I MET list in the SILENCE volume that Guggenheim published. It's not enough to sustain a page on this site.

So I'll just skim through the year right here, then get on with 1973, for which there is a dedicated volume called
On Kawara, One Year's Production. A volume that owes its existence to Kasper König.

So here goes. A whistle stop tour of On Kawara's 1972…

On January 12, On Kawara did not leave his studio. (It may take you a while to find the discreet red dot at 340 East 13th Street.) Perhaps he was involved in that end of year exercise I was discussing. Or in some other way finalising his 1971 Journal.

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

That single I MET is for January 30, 1972. On Kawara spent it with Japanese-named people, until the evening (I guess) when Dan Graham, Kasper König, his girlfriend and his sister (I guess) were OK's company. Dan and Kasper in the same room. Dan, Kasper and On in the same conversation. Alas, I can't say more because I don't know more. I don't even know enough to make it up.

I don't know when exactly On Kawara finished his One Million Years in 1971. But he finished it in time for the 10 volumes to be shown at Galerie Konrad Fisher in Dusseldorf. It then travelled to Milan and Paris in 1971. Below is a photo taken at the opening at Galeria Toseli, Milan,in 1971. Nobody seems to be looking at the work. Well, perhaps one person is.

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Then on to Brussels and Turin in 1972. The next photo shows One Million Years at Galerie Paul Maenz in Brussels, 1972.

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The show's progress through 1971 to 1973 is shown by the following table:


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Thanks to the David Zwirner Gallery for making this available online.

It's called 'taking the art world by storm'. And I notice that sneaked in amongst the One Million Years solo shows was a solo show of Date Painting at the Galerie Konrad Fischer the year after the inaugural showing of One Million Years. Remember the influencer behind the Guggenheim show? To have sent him an I GOT UP postcard every day for four months must surely have both taunted and haunted the gallerist, priming Konrad Fischer for the impact of the ten black volumes that would make up the last million years. Leaving him mind-blown, which is to say ready and eager for the core work. Yes, it's called Taking the Art World By Date Painting.

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Trouble is, the art world moves on. The spaces have got to be filled with new work ten times per year. On Kawara wasn't interested in coming up with brilliant new ideas. He was interested in carrying on with the brilliant idea that he was still having. The idea that life is long/short, the day is long/short, and our imaginations infinite/infinitesimal.

Odd that the first place outside Europe that
One Million Years was shown was the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Canada. Ah, that's because Kasper König was working there for a few years from 1972. On Kawara will visit him there in 1973 and I will shortly be investigating that.

On Kawara did not follow his work around the world. He did not go to any of these openings (though I will check out that assertion for Nova Scotia).

I wonder what OK's mood was like in 1972. He may even have been low, the first time that possibility has struck me. 'I DIDN'T GET UP UNTIL 6.42 P.M. BECAUSE I WAS DEPRESSED.' Could there be anything in that?

In the second half of 1972, his production of Date Paintings almost came to a halt. Four in July, two in August, three in September. Two in October, including the final quote from a newspaper, the subtitle "Henry A. Kissinger." Following this, the Date Paintings are subtitled simply with the day of the week during which they were painted. With one exception that I'll soon come to.

A single painting in November: "Thursday". Three paintings in late December, 1972, made in Stockholm where he had been invited to stay for most of December and all of January. The Date Painting made on December 28 was subtitled "Jag vet inte." Which translates from the Swedish as "I do not know." Back to On Kawara's state of confusion in the days after Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is that where he was?

Thereafter, the subtitles of remaining Date Paintings in 1972 were "Fredag" and "Sunday". The days of the week were used as subtitles into 1973 and beyond. There would be no going back to newspaper stories for titles.

Have the last million years (culminating in 1945) finally caught up with you, master On? Is that why you didn't leave your studio on January 16, 1972, despite not doing a Date Painting that day?

"I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE DON'T WORRY."

What did you say, master On? Is this a conversation with Kasper König circa 1968 or 1972 I'm overhearing?

"I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE WORRY."

Well, I for one am going to worry. Of course I am.

"I AM GOING TO SLEEP FORGET IT."

Was Henry Kissinger the last straw? Nixon's right hand man. The man who was going to sort out Viet Nam once and for all. On? On?
Can you hear me master On?
Can you hear me, master On?
Can you…


"…Here… am I floating in my tin can.
Far above the world.
Planet earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do."





NOTE

Email from Duncan McLaren to Kasper
König on 10 May 2021:

I GOT UP AT 9.13 A.M. AND POSTED THIS:
onkawara.co.uk/styled-14/
Sending my respect down the decades,
Duncan



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